June 29 1971

EDITORIAL: Yahya’s threadbare package

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Yahya Khan’s nightmarish dream world shows no signs of crumbling. It is a “matter of satisfaction” to this “simple soldier” (in his latest broadcast) that in the difficult situation his country has faced recently “the reaction and responses from an overwhelming number of countries has been of sympathy and understanding of the problems we are facing and trying to resolve.” If Yahya believes that, if Yahya can brush aside the nausea of all Western reaction, then he may truly believe anything: even the field reports of his generals in Bengal. His faith in what his aides tell him is touching, but tragically pathetic. He has no real plans now. The proposals he unveiled yesterday for a return to democratic government are a pathetic sham. If the aid givers of the world relent in their shocked disdain towards Pakistan it will not be because of an “expert panel” conjuring up slick formulae for subjugating Dacca once again.

Yahya’s present strategy is based more on boredom than anything else. Fiddle away for a while, make a show of liberal sorrow and gruff sentiment, and hope that a harassed “international opinion” will yawn and pass on to other problems. So we have the experts and their constitution for “four months or so.” Then we have a National Assembly stripped of the Awami League (which has a total majority in it) and all top leadership incarcerated, shot or exiled. Vague phrases blur even the powers of this castrated body, but significantly the President no longer talks bluffly of his longing to get back to barracks. Martial law continues indefinitely. If Mr. Bhutto wishes to rule in the West he must snuggle up to the military again. If anyone wishes to lead Eastern reconstruction he must stand in the shadow of Tikka Khan, a stooge in peril of assassination every time he shows his face. Yahya, in fact, can offer only the gauze of legality or autonomy to Bengal. He will be hard put to make it work for six months, never mind in six years. As independent reports now coming from inside East Pakistan make clear there is resistance and terrorism and galloping poverty; there is Bengali determination not to forget, not to jettison aspirations. The refugees will not come back en masse to face Tikka’s tender mercies. Politicians of character will steer away from collaboration. Those educated Bengalis who remain in the East will lie low.

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