Zulfikar Bhutto: Closely watched by the Pakistan army

The following is an excerpt from a declassified document released online by America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as part of a searchable database on its website Reading Room. Declassified documents were previously only available to the public at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

Zulfikar Bhutto: Closely watched by the Pakistan army

Zulfikar Bhutto: Closely watched by the Pakistan army

In a weekly summary compiled by the Office of Current Intelligence and dated 19 February 1972, Pakistan gets a mention in an analysis of then President Zulfikar Bhutto and threat he faces from the military.

The author of the document prepared by US officials maintains (on page 12) that Bhutto has moved “skilfully” to gain public support in his first weeks in office, but that he is beginning to feel the burden of economic discontent and social agitation.

“Civilian demands are coupled with competing claims from the military for a larger share of economic resources. Bhutto’s decisions will be closely scrutinised by the army, which remains the strongest organised element in Pakistan and may be tempted to seize power again if Bhutto falters.”

The report also highlights Bhutto’s continuation of martial law as “one of the most contentious issues” for his government.

The report reads, “His [Bhutto’s] unwillingness to set a definite date antagonises his political opponents, who realise that government by proclamation gives Bhutto time to consolidate his power.Furthermore, retention of extraordinary powers could enable Bhutto to present the national assembly, when eventually summoned, with a fait accompli on a variety of controversial matters that the assembly might not readily accept, despite the substantial majority of his Pakistan’s People’s Party.”

“Consequently, disparate political opposition groups appear to be coalescing around Wali Khan’s National Awamy Party/Revisionist. They are united at least momentarily by a determination to press Bhutto to set a date for convening the national assembly and begin drafting a new constitution.”

Along with the political complexities, the intelligence report also highlights the “faltering economy”.

It notes that the loss of the East Pakistan market and the halt in new foreign aid have contributed to the growing uncertainty, production cutbacks, labour unrest, and crippling strikes.

“The business community is particularly unhappy with the labour unrest, while labour, which enthusiastically jumped on the anti-industrialist bandwagon started by President Bhutto, is unhappy with the recently announced limited labour reforms by the government.”

The abovementioned document is part of a database of 930,000 previously-confidential files released by the CIA on January 17, 2017. The CIA had disseminated historical declassified documents to its CIA Records Search Tool (CREST) since 1999.

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