Exercise in Conspiracy: A Resume
The following airgram was sent to the US Department
of State by the American Consulate General in Dacca as "Secret
A-259" on March 12, 1968.
Investigations and arrests started in East Pakistan
in December 1967 when secret reports of a plot to assassinate Ayub
Khan were brought to the notice of the Government of Pakistan. Ayub
was visiting that part of the country at that time. He cancelled
his trip to Chittagong and returned home amid tightened security.
The next month, the ISI brought reports of a conspiracy to establish
an independent state in East Pakistan; allegedly, there had been
meetings between Bengali officers from East Pakistan and Indian
subvertors in the Indian town of Agartala near the East Pakistani
The following "resume" presents the sum
of independent investigations carried out by the American Embassy
in Dacca for the benefit of its State Department.
An Exercise in Conspiracy: A Resume
Late on the evening of December 8, Mirza Rameez said
good night to his girl friend on a dark Chittagong side street before
hurrying home to his wife. He appeared to be worried and it was
clear he had been drinking heavily. He had been drinking heavily
for three months. Rameez was a frightened man. For some time he
had been aware that he was being followed by the Special Branch;
and a friend had told him earlier in the week that he had heard
that the police would arrest Rameez "and his friends"
before the end of the week. He thought of fleeing, but he had no
money and had nowhere to run. Four hours later at 3:00 AM, December
9, the secret police knocked on his door.
Early on the morning of December 9, an ex-college
teacher was roused by a frightened young man, one of his former
students. The young man told his former professor that the police
were arresting his friends "for a political plot" and
that they were looking for him. He asked what he should do. The
teacher told him that if he did not want to be arrested he should
go "underground". The young man was clearly puzzled. He
had no idea of how one goes underground. His associates and the
men of his political party had not considered that their plot might
be discovered; hence they had made no preparation for flight. Besides,
the young man added, "only the communists go underground".
On December 22, a once bouyant young man now in virtually
a catatonic trance after two weeks of intermittent torture, mumbled
to a young Dacca attorney that "he had not meant to talk",
dumbly begging his fellow Bengali's forgiveness.
The young Bengalis were quieter than usual at the
Dacca and Chittagong Clubs. Eid was quieter this year. Fear was
in the air. Men were afraid to pass more than the barest of greetings.
Once argumentative chaps endured the taunts of Punjabi and non-Bengali
members. No one knew who were the informers.
In the quiet pre-dawn hours of a morning in early
January, army troops armed with submachine guns and rifles removed
a slight manacled man from the Dacca Central Jail where he had been
locked up for almost two years. Word of his removal passed through
the city by the "bazar telegraph" - 'The army has taken
Mujib" - but no one knew where.
Several law students met at a room at Dacca LTs Iqbal
Hall and asked themselves what could they do about the army's seizing
Mujib. The old means of protest-mass meetings and demonstrations-seemed
somehow inadequate; but no one could suggest alternate tactics and
some of the boys were afraid. Some "old boys" (graduates)
now in the Awami League and teachers had been sympathetic, but had
offered little help. "Better lie low for awhile", they
had been told. Still they had to make some protest: "We Bengalis
can't take this lying down".
Bewilderment, frustration, and fear again beset the
young educated Bengal; and hatred of the Rawalpindi establishment
was germinating in still more Bengali breasts.
Summary and Conclusions
On the basis of some low-key investigation, numerous
conversations and cross checks, in Dacca and in Chittagong, we conclude
that an indeterminate number of Bengali civil and military personnel,
lower echelon politicians, and businessmen were scheming and talking
for at least two years about overthrowing the Government in East
Pakistan and establishing an independent East Pakistan state. Some
of the alleged conspirators whose background we are familiar with
are malcontents and personality problems. The plotting itself reflected
naiveté and inexperience. The plot was nowhere near consummation
when it was broken apart by the arrests last December. Indian involvement,
if any, in the scheming was probably confined to the supply of some
money to some of the would-be conspirators.
We conclude also that there existed no assassination
plot against President Ayub during his December visit to East Pakistan.
GOP security agencies probably learned of the scheming
through the loose-mouthed talk of an unstable ex-Pakistan Air Force
officer, Mirza M. Rameez, who until December was Chittagong District
Manager of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). The Special Branch
of the East Pakistan Police had Rameez under surveillance for several
months prior to his arrest on December 8.
Irrespective of how amateurish the plotting may have
been, the fact that it existed is significant. The traditional Bengali
animosity toward the West Pakistani-dominated Central Government
has now been joined by extra-legal activity. The legacy of the conspiracy
and the consequences of the prospective military trials could widen
the gulf of mistrust between the two provinces.
Moreover, if Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is dragged into
a public trial for obvious political reasons without a convincing
case against him he could be enshrined as a martyr to the cause
of Bengal autonomy.
Source: The American Papers: Secret and Confidential
India-Pakistan-Bangladesh Documents 1965-1973
Compiled and Selected by Roedad Khan (1999). Oxford University
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