June 29 1971

EDITORIAL: Yahya’s threadbare package


And nowhere, in all the intellectual wasteland of Yahya’s master play, is the central question asked. Does Pakistan exist any longer? Does unity matter any longer? What precisely have the Punjabi legions achieved? In Islamabad’s book the regime snipped a budding plot between Sheikh Mujib and Mrs. Gandhi - a plot to wreck the pure State of Jinnah and deliver half of it into the evil hands of New Delhi. That, seriously, is what Yahya claims - the same Yahya who allowed Mujib to win an unrigged election, to bargain long and hard over a constitution; the same Mujib who waited quietly at his home for the army to take him away, who - far from leading a premeditated coup - was patently stunned when the generals attacked.

Defending the Sheikh and his scattered henchmen may, at this juncture, seem a redundant exercise. Too much blood, too many refugees have flowed since Mujib disappeared for Pakistan to be magically put back together again. Yet his reputation remains unsullied and important. He won an election. He did not, and has never publicly declared UDI. The excesses of his Bengali followers were precipitated by army action - not the reverse. He remains, just possibly, the one man who can persuade the five million who fled to return; and - equally vital - those Bengalis who remained not to wallow in communal strife. Mujib, in short, is Pakistan’s last chance of a little peace. Perhaps Yahya’s advisers, examining this new threadbare package, begin to realise it. Perhaps, the rich of Karachi and Lahore, groaning under the latest straitened national budget, begin to lose faith in their ludicrously naive leadership. But the time is late and the reality is nowhere yet to be found. Yesterday’s pronouncements should strengthen the Aid for Pakistan consortium and the World Bank in their resolve not to bend to blandishments or evasive promises. The stronger that resolve, the weaker the Rawalpindi regime appears.


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