KARACHI: In a memorandum titled ‘Prospects for Pakistan’ and published on May 30, 1975, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) discussed a likely scenario that could lead to a resurgence of political instability in Pakistan.

A major talking point was the sudden assassination or removal of then prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Likely developments after Bhutto’s demise or removal from power were predicted as a prolonged struggle for power in Islamabad, an upsurge in unrest in the frontier areas and a likely takeover of the government by the armed forces.

Giving reasons for Bhutto’s possible removal, the CIA analysis said: “Bhutto’s penchant for using repressive tactics against his opponents could backfire. Strong opposition could flare up over a number of issues, and the armed forces could grow tired of helping Bhutto fight his political battles.”

Elaborating further on the political landscape, the memorandum said that no other politician in Pakistan enjoyed such widespread support. However, it also criticised Bhutto for not preparing a likely successor.

“In such a situation, the armed forces might well decide to resume control over the government. They would not necessarily find it easy, however, to restore stability.”

The memorandum, however, predicted rightly that the political climate in Pakistan would remain stable for the next two years till 1977. The military coup against the Bhutto government and his subsequent arrest by the army took place on July 5, 1977, a little over two years after the memo was drafted. “Internally, Pakistan probably will remain stable during the next two years.”

Regarding external threats faced by Pakistan during the time period mentioned, the CIA said that no major threat to Pakistan’s security or integrity was foreseen.

It shed light on likely Indian and Afghan courses of action, if internal pressure in those countries increased, and said the countries could adopt more aggressive policies towards Pakistan.

Published in Dawn January 31st, 2017

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