Yahya Khan

Yahya Khan

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General Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan Qizilbash, H.Pk, HJ, S.Pk, psc
Psc
psc were the initials which appeared in the service lists denoting that a British Army officer had attended the Staff College, Camberley or, prior to 1956 and Pakistani independence, the Command and Staff College, Quetta...

 (Urdu
Urdu
Urdu is a register of the Hindustani language that is identified with Muslims in South Asia. It belongs to the Indo-European family. Urdu is the national language and lingua franca of Pakistan. It is also widely spoken in some regions of India, where it is one of the 22 scheduled languages and an...

: آغا محمد یحیی خان; February 4, 1917 – August 10, 1980) was the third President of Pakistan
President of Pakistan
The President of Pakistan is the head of state, as well as figurehead, of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Recently passed an XVIII Amendment , Pakistan has a parliamentary democratic system of government. According to the Constitution, the President is chosen by the Electoral College to serve a...

 from 1969 to 1971, following the resignation of Ayub Khan. He had one son, Ali Yahya and one daughter, Yasmeen Khan.

Early life


Yahya Khan was born in 1917 in Chakwal, and traces his ancestry to a soldier who arrived in 1738 with Nader Shah
Nader Shah
Nāder Shāh Afshār ruled as Shah of Iran and was the founder of the Afsharid dynasty. Because of his military genius, some historians have described him as the Napoleon of Persia or the Second Alexander...

 of Persia. Yaya Khan is considered an ethnic Pashtun according to most sources.

Army career


Yahya Khan, H.Pk, HJ, S.Pk, psc joined the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

, and served in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 as an officer in the 4th Infantry Division (India). He served in Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, and North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

.

Yahya Khan was commissioned from Indian Military Academy
Indian Military Academy
The Indian Military Academy, Dehradun is the officer training school of the Indian Army. IMA was established in 1932.-Demands for an Indian military training academy:...

 Dehra Dun on 15 July 1939. An infantry officer from the 4/10 Baluch Regiment
Baloch Regiment
The Baloch Regiment is an infantry regiment of Pakistan Army. The modern regiment was formed in May 1956 by the merger of 8th Punjab and Bahawalpur Regiments with the Baluch Regiment. Since then, further raisings have brought the strength of the Regiment to more than fifty battalions...

, Yahya saw action during World War II in North Africa where he was captured by the Axis Forces in June 1942 and interned in a prisoner of war camp in Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 from where he escaped in the third attempt.

Career before becoming commander-in-chief


In 1947 he was instrumental in not letting the Indian officers shift books from the famous library of the British Indian Staff College at Quetta
Quetta
is the largest city and the provincial capital of the Balochistan Province of Pakistan. Known as the "Fruit Garden of Pakistan" due to the diversity of its plant and animal wildlife, Quetta is home to the Hazarganji Chiltan National Park, which contains some of the rarest species of wildlife in the...

, where Yahya was posted as the only Muslim instructor at the time of partition of India.

Yahya became a brigadier at the age of 34 and commanded the 105 Independent Brigade, which was deployed on the ceasefire line in Kashmir in 1951-52. Later Yahya, as Deputy Chief of General Staff, was selected to head the army's planning board set up by Ayub to modernise the Pakistan Army in 1954-57. Yahya also performed the duties of Chief of General Staff
Chief of General Staff (Pakistan)
Chief of General Staff, shortly abbreviated as CGS, is the most coveted position within the Pakistan Army. Although four-star Chief of Army Staff is the nominal head of the land forces, CGS is the operational and intelligence lead of the institution...

 from 1958 to 1962 from where he went on to command an infantry division from 1962 to 1965.

Upon the formation of Pakistan, Khan helped set up an officer's school in Quetta
Quetta
is the largest city and the provincial capital of the Balochistan Province of Pakistan. Known as the "Fruit Garden of Pakistan" due to the diversity of its plant and animal wildlife, Quetta is home to the Hazarganji Chiltan National Park, which contains some of the rarest species of wildlife in the...

, and commanded an infantry division during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965
Indo-Pakistani War of 1965
The Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 was a culmination of skirmishes that took place between April 1965 and September 1965 between Pakistan and India. This conflict became known as the Second Kashmir War fought by India and Pakistan over the disputed region of Kashmir, the first having been fought in 1947...

. Immediately after the 1965 war Major General Yahya Khan who had commanded the 7th Division in Operation Grand Slam was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General, appointed Deputy Army Commander in Chief and Commander in Chief designate in March 1966. At promotion, Yahya Khan superseded two of his seniors, Lt Gen Altaf Qadir and Lt Gen Bakhtiar Rana.

As commander-in-chief


Yahya energetically started reorganising the Pakistan Army in 1965. The post 1965 situation saw major organisational as well as technical changes in the Pakistan Army. Till 1965 it was thought that divisions could function effectively while getting orders directly from the army's GHQ. This idea failed miserably in the 1965 war and the need to have intermediate corps headquarters in between the GHQ and the fighting combat divisions was recognised as a foremost operational necessity after the 1965 war. In 1965 war the Pakistan Army had only one corps headquarter (i.e. the 1st Corps Headquarters).

Soon after the war had started the U.S.
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 had imposed an embargo on military aid on both India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

. This embargo did not affect the Indian Army but produced major changes in the Pakistan Army's technical composition. US Secretary of State Dean Rusk
Dean Rusk
David Dean Rusk was the United States Secretary of State from 1961 to 1969 under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Rusk is the second-longest serving U.S...

 well summed it up when he said, "Well if you are going to fight, go ahead and fight, but we're not going to pay for it".

Pakistan now turned to China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 for military aid and the Chinese tank T-59 started replacing the US M-47/48 tanks as the Pakistan Army's MBT (Main Battle Tank) from 1966. 80 tanks, the first batch of T-59s, a low-grade version of the Russian T-54/55 series were delivered to Pakistan in 1965-66. The first batch was displayed in the Joint Services Day Parade on 23 March 1966. The 1965 War had proved that Pakistan Army's tank infantry ratio was lopsided and more infantry was required. Three more infantry divisions (9, 16 and 17 Divisions) largely equipped with Chinese equipment and popularly referred to by the rank and file as "The China Divisions" were raised by the beginning of 1968. Two more corps headquarters i.e. 2nd Corps Headquarters (Jhelum-Ravi Corridor) and 4th Corps Headquarters (Ravi-Sutlej Corridor) were raised.

President of Pakistan


Ayub Khan was President of Pakistan
President of Pakistan
The President of Pakistan is the head of state, as well as figurehead, of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Recently passed an XVIII Amendment , Pakistan has a parliamentary democratic system of government. According to the Constitution, the President is chosen by the Electoral College to serve a...

 for most of the 1960s, but by the end of the decade, popular resentment had boiled over against him. Pakistan had fallen into a state of disarray, and he handed over power to Yahya Khan. In his first nationwide address, Yahya reimposed martial law
Martial law
Martial law is the imposition of military rule by military authorities over designated regions on an emergency basis— only temporary—when the civilian government or civilian authorities fail to function effectively , when there are extensive riots and protests, or when the disobedience of the law...

, saying, "I will not tolerate disorder. Let everyone remain at his post."

Once Ayub handed over power to Yahya Khan on 25 March 1969 Yahya inherited a two-decade constitutional problem of inter-provincial ethnic rivalry between the Punjabi
Punjabi people
The Punjabi people , ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ), also Panjabi people, are an Indo-Aryan group from South Asia. They are the second largest of the many ethnic groups in South Asia. They originate in the Punjab region, which has been been the location of some of the oldest civilizations in the world including, the...

-Pashtun
Pashtun people
Pashtuns or Pathans , also known as ethnic Afghans , are an Eastern Iranic ethnic group with populations primarily between the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan and the Indus River in Pakistan...

-Mohajir dominated West Pakistan
West Pakistan
West Pakistan , common name West-Pakistan , in the period between its establishment on 22 November 1955 to disintegration on December 16, 1971. This period, during which, Pakistan was divided, ended when East-Pakistan was disintegrated and succeeded to become which is now what is known as Bangladesh...

 province and the ethnically Bengali
Bengali people
The Bengali people are an ethnic community native to the historic region of Bengal in South Asia. They speak Bengali , which is an Indo-Aryan language of the eastern Indian subcontinent, evolved from the Magadhi Prakrit and Sanskrit languages. In their native language, they are referred to as বাঙালী...

 Muslim East Pakistan
East Pakistan
East Pakistan was a provincial state of Pakistan established in 14 August 1947. The provincial state existed until its declaration of independence on 26 March 1971 as the independent nation of Bangladesh. Pakistan recognized the new nation on 16 December 1971. East Pakistan was created from Bengal...

 province. In addition Yahya also inherited an 11 year old problem of transforming an essentially one man ruled country to a democratic country, which was the ideological basis of the anti-Ayub movement of 1968-69. As an Army Chief Yahya had all the capabilities, qualifications and potential. But Yahya inherited an extremely complex problem and was forced to perform the multiple roles of caretaker head of the country, drafter of a provisional constitution, resolving the One Unit question, satisfying the frustrations and the sense of exploitation and discrimination successively created in the East Wing by a series of government policies since 1948. All these were complex problems and the seeds of Pakistan Army's defeat and humiliation in December 1971 lay in the fact that Yahya Khan blundered unwittingly into the thankless task of fixing the problems of Pakistan's political and administrative system which had been accumulating for 20 years.

The American author Lawrence Ziring observed that, "Yahya Khan has been widely portrayed as a ruthless uncompromising insensitive and grossly inept leader...While Yahya cannot escape responsibility for these tragic events, it is also on record that he did not act alone...All the major actors of the period were creatures of a historic legacy and a psycho-political milieu which did not lend itself to accommodation and compromise, to bargaining and a reasonable settlement. Nurtured on conspiracy theories, they were all conditioned to act in a manner that neglected agreeable solutions and promoted violent judgements".

Yahya Khan attempted to solve Pakistan's constitutional and inter-provincial/regional rivalry problems once he took over power from Ayub Khan in March 1969. The tragedy of the whole affair was the fact that all actions that Yahya took, although correct in principle, were too late in timing, and served only to further intensify the political polarisation between the East and West wings.
  • He dissolved the one unit restoring the pre-1955 provinces of West Pakistan
  • Promised free direct, one man, one vote, fair elections on adult franchise, a basic human right which had been denied to the Pakistani people since the pre-independence 1946 elections by political inefficiency, double play and intrigue, by civilian governments, from 1947 to 1958 and by Ayub's one man rule from 1958 to 1969.


However dissolution of one unit did not lead to the positive results that it might have led to in case "One Unit" was dissolved earlier. Yahya also made an attempt to accommodate the East Pakistanis by abolishing the principle of parity, thereby hoping that greater share in the assembly would redress their wounded ethnic regional pride and ensure the integrity of Pakistan. Instead of satisfying the Bengalis it intensified their separatism, since they felt that the west wing had politically suppressed them since 1958. Thus the rise of anti West Wing sentiment in the East Wing.

The last days of Pakistani East Bengal


Yahya announced in his broadcast to the nation on 28 July 1969, his firm intention to redress Bengali grievances, the first major step in this direction being, the doubling of Bengali quota in the defence services.
Within a year he had set up a framework for elections that were held in December 1970. In East Pakistan
East Pakistan
East Pakistan was a provincial state of Pakistan established in 14 August 1947. The provincial state existed until its declaration of independence on 26 March 1971 as the independent nation of Bangladesh. Pakistan recognized the new nation on 16 December 1971. East Pakistan was created from Bengal...

, the Awami League (led by Mujibur Rahman) held almost all of the seats, but none in West Pakistan
West Pakistan
West Pakistan , common name West-Pakistan , in the period between its establishment on 22 November 1955 to disintegration on December 16, 1971. This period, during which, Pakistan was divided, ended when East-Pakistan was disintegrated and succeeded to become which is now what is known as Bangladesh...

. In West Pakistan
West Pakistan
West Pakistan , common name West-Pakistan , in the period between its establishment on 22 November 1955 to disintegration on December 16, 1971. This period, during which, Pakistan was divided, ended when East-Pakistan was disintegrated and succeeded to become which is now what is known as Bangladesh...

, the Pakistan Peoples Party
Pakistan Peoples Party
The Pakistan Peoples Party , is a democratic socialist political party in Pakistan affiliated with Socialist International. Pakistan People's Party is the largest political party of Pakistan...

 (led by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto) won the lion's share of the seats, but none in East Pakistan. Though Mujib had 162 seats in the National Assembly aand Bhutto had 88 of PPP. The election results truly reflected the ugly political reality: the division of the Pakistani electorate along regional lines and political polarization of the country between the two wings, East and West Pakistan. In political terms, therefore, Pakistan as a nation stood divided as a result. Bhutto and Mujib where unable to come to an agreement on on the transfer of power from to East Pakistan on the basis of this Six-Point Program. Many felt that the 6 points where a step towards secession. It since emerged that Mujib met Indian diplomats in London according to his daughter in 1969 from where he agreed to secede from Pakistan

Yahya Khan ordered a crack down to restore the writ of the government. Operation Searchlight
Operation Searchlight
Operation Searchlight was a planned military operation carried out by the Pakistan Army to curb the Bengali nationalist movement in the erstwhile East Pakistan in March 1971. Ordered by the central government in West Pakistan, this was seen as the sequel to "Operation Blitz" which had been...

 began on 25 March 1971 and soon restored order. However, the gulf between the two wings now was too wide to be bridged. Agitation now transformed into a vicious insurgency as Bengali elements of Pakistani armed Forces and Police mutinied and fled to India from where they received assistance to launch hit and run operations.

Operation Searchlight
Operation Searchlight
Operation Searchlight was a planned military operation carried out by the Pakistan Army to curb the Bengali nationalist movement in the erstwhile East Pakistan in March 1971. Ordered by the central government in West Pakistan, this was seen as the sequel to "Operation Blitz" which had been...

 ordered by Yahya was a planned military pacification carried out by the Pakistan Army
Pakistan Army
The Pakistan Army is the branch of the Pakistani Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. The Pakistan Army came into existence after the Partition of India and the resulting independence of Pakistan in 1947. It is currently headed by General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. The Pakistan...

 to curb the Bengali
Bengali people
The Bengali people are an ethnic community native to the historic region of Bengal in South Asia. They speak Bengali , which is an Indo-Aryan language of the eastern Indian subcontinent, evolved from the Magadhi Prakrit and Sanskrit languages. In their native language, they are referred to as বাঙালী...

 nationalist movement in erstwhile East Pakistan
East Pakistan
East Pakistan was a provincial state of Pakistan established in 14 August 1947. The provincial state existed until its declaration of independence on 26 March 1971 as the independent nation of Bangladesh. Pakistan recognized the new nation on 16 December 1971. East Pakistan was created from Bengal...

 in March 1971 Ordered by the government in West Pakistan
West Pakistan
West Pakistan , common name West-Pakistan , in the period between its establishment on 22 November 1955 to disintegration on December 16, 1971. This period, during which, Pakistan was divided, ended when East-Pakistan was disintegrated and succeeded to become which is now what is known as Bangladesh...

, this was seen as the sequel to Operation Blitz which had been launched in November 1970.

The original plan envisioned taking control of the major cities on 26 March 1971, and then eliminating all opposition, political or military, within one month. The prolonged Bengali resistance was not anticipated by Pakistani planners. The main phase of Operation Searchlight ended with the fall of the last major town in Bengali hands in mid May.

The total number of people killed in East Pakistan is not known with any degree of accuracy. Bangladeshi authorities claim that 3 million people were killed, while the Hamoodur Rahman Commission, an official Pakistan Government investigation, put the figure as low as 26,000 civilian casualties. The international media and reference books in English have also published figures which vary greatly from 200,000 to 2,000,000 for Bangladesh as a whole. A further eight to ten million people fled the country to seek safety in India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

.

The Office of the Historian of the United States Department of State
United States Department of State
The United States Department of State , is the United States federal executive department responsible for international relations of the United States, equivalent to the foreign ministries of other countries...

 held a two-day conference in late June 2005 on U.S. policy in South Asia
South Asia
South Asia, also known as Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and, for some authorities , also includes the adjoining countries to the west and the east...

 between 1961 and 1972. Bangladeshi speakers at the conference stated that the official Bangladeshi figure of civilian deaths was close to 300,000, which was wrongly translated from Bengali into English as three million. Ambassador Shamsher M. Chowdhury acknowledged that Bangladesh alone cannot correct this mistake and suggested Pakistan and Bangladesh should form a joint commission to investigate the 1971 disaster and prepare a report. A 2008 study in the British Medical Journal concluded that 269,000 civilians were killed by all sides in the war.

Khan arrested Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was a Bengali nationalist politician and the founder of Bangladesh. He headed the Awami League, served as the first President of Bangladesh and later became its Prime Minister. He headed the Awami League, served as the first President of Bangladesh and later became its...

 on charges of Sedition
Sedition
In law, sedition is overt conduct, such as speech and organization, that is deemed by the legal authority to tend toward insurrection against the established order. Sedition often includes subversion of a constitution and incitement of discontent to lawful authority. Sedition may include any...

 and appointed Brigadier Rahimuddin Khan
Rahimuddin Khan
Rahimuddin Khan Afridi is a retired four-star general of the Pakistan Army who was the fourth Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee from 1984 to 1987. He was also the longest-serving Governor and martial law administrator of Balochistan, from 1978 to when he resigned in 1984...

 (later General) to preside over a special tribunal dealing with Mujib's case. Rahimuddin awarded Mujib the death sentence
Death Sentence
Death Sentence is a short story by the American science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov. It was first published in the November 1943 issue of Astounding Science Fiction and reprinted in the 1972 collection The Early Asimov.-Plot summary:...

, and President Yahya put the verdict into abeyance. Yahya's crackdown, however, had led to a Bangladesh Liberation War
Bangladesh Liberation War
The Bangladesh Liberation War was an armed conflict pitting East Pakistan and India against West Pakistan. The war resulted in the secession of East Pakistan, which became the independent nation of Bangladesh....

 within Pakistan, and eventually drew India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 into what would extend into the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
The Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 was a military conflict between India and Pakistan. Indian, Bangladeshi and international sources consider the beginning of the war to be Operation Chengiz Khan, Pakistan's December 3, 1971 pre-emptive strike on 11 Indian airbases...

. The end result was the establishment of Bangladesh
Bangladesh
Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

 as an independent republic. Khan subsequently apologized for his mistakes and voluntarily stepped down.

The US Role


As President, Khan helped to establish the communication channel between the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

, which would be used to set up the Nixon trip in 1972.

Pakistan was perceived in the United States as an integral bulwark against Communism in the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

. The United States cautiously supported Pakistan during 1971 although congress kept in place an arms embargo. India, with a heavily Socialistic economy, signed a formal alliance
Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation
The Indo–Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation was a treaty signed between India and the Soviet Union in August 1971 that specified mutual strategic cooperation...

 with the Soviet Union in August 1971. Both Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger
Henry Kissinger
Heinz Alfred "Henry" Kissinger is a German-born American academic, political scientist, diplomat, and businessman. He is a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He served as National Security Advisor and later concurrently as Secretary of State in the administrations of Presidents Richard Nixon and...

 felt that the atrocities committed by Pakistan in Bangladesh were greatly exaggerated for propaganda purposes. Moreover, noting that India was using the violence committed by all sides during this Pakistani civil war as a pretext for a possible military intervention, they suspected that India had aggressive intentions.

Kissinger would work to prevent sectarian conflicts in Yemen
Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

 and Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

 from devolving into regional wars under Presidents Nixon and Ford. With the Soviet Union already covertly engaged in neighboring Afghanistan, the Nixon administration used Pakistan to try to deter further Soviet encroachment in the region. The Awami League, the dominant political force in Bangladesh, was an explicitly Socialist party aligned with Moscow.

Nixon relayed messages to Yahya, urging him to restrain Pakistani forces. His objective was to prevent a war and safeguard Pakistan's interests, though he feared an Indian invasion of West Pakistan that would lead to Indian domination of the sub-continent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

 and strengthen the position of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. Similarly, Yahya Khan feared that an independent Bangladesh could lead to the disintegration of Pakistan. Indian military support for Bengali guerillas led to war between India and Pakistan.

Nixon met with Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi
Indira Gandhi
Indira Priyadarshini Gandhara was an Indian politician who served as the third Prime Minister of India for three consecutive terms and a fourth term . She was assassinated by Sikh extremists...

 and did not believe her assertion that she would not invade Pakistan; he did not trust her and once referred to her as an "old witch". Kissinger maintained that Nixon made specific proposals to Gandhi on a solution for the crisis, some of which she heard for the first time; for example, mutual withdrawal of troops from the Indo-East Pakistan borders. Nixon also expressed a wish to fix a time limit with Yahya for political accommodation in East Pakistan. Nixon asserted that India could count on US endeavors to ease the crisis within a short time. But, both Kissinger and Gandhi aide Jayakar maintained, Gandhi did not respond to these proposals. Kissinger noted that she "listened to what was in fact one of Nixon's better presentations with aloof indifference" but "took up none of the points." Jayakar pointed out that Gandhi listened to Nixon "without a single comment, creating an impregnable space so that no real contact was possible." She also refrained from assuring that India would follow Pakistan's suit if it withdrew from India's borders. As a result, the main agenda was "dropped altogether." On December 3, Yahya preemptively attacked the Indian Air Force and Gandhi retaliated, pushing into East Pakistan. Nixon issued a statement blaming Pakistan for starting the conflict and blaming India for escalating it because he favored a cease-fire. The United States was secretly encouraging the shipment of military equipment from Iran, Turkey, and Jordan to Pakistan, reimbursing those countries despite Congressional objections. The US used the threat of an aid cut-off to force Pakistan to back down, while its continued military aid to Islamabad prevented India from launching incursions deeper into the country. A cease fire was reached on December 16, leading to the creation of the independent state of Bangladesh
Bangladesh
Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

. Sheikh Mujib
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was a Bengali nationalist politician and the founder of Bangladesh. He headed the Awami League, served as the first President of Bangladesh and later became its Prime Minister. He headed the Awami League, served as the first President of Bangladesh and later became its...

 led the newly established People's Republic of Bangladesh as a one-party, dictatorial state.

The US remained hostile to the Mujib regime, and Mujib considered himself to be a demagogue. His government's threat to prosecute US supported Pakistani War Criminals led the US to withhold food aid and ultimately exacerbated the famine
Bangladesh famine of 1974
The Bangladesh famine of 1974 refers to a period of mass starvation beginning in March 1974 and ending in about December of the same year. The famine is considered the worst in recent years; it was characterised by massive flooding along the Brahmaputra river as well as high...

 in Bangladesh from March to December 1974, leading to the death of more than one million people. During this famine, the United States also objected to Bangladesh's exports of jute to Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

, another factor in withholding aid. By the time Mujib agreed to end support for Cuba, and the US began shipments of food to Bangladesh, it was 'too late for famine victims'. The US claims, Mujib's regime committed widespread human rights violations and tortured and executed thousands of dissidents. Nixon and Kissinger argued that these atrocities were far worse than anything Pakistan had committed in Bangladesh.

Fall from Power


Later overwhelming public anger over Pakistan's defeat by Bangladeshi rebels and the division of Pakistan into two parts boiled into street demonstrations throughout Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

. Rumours of an impending coup d'état by younger army officers against the government of President Mohammed Agha Yahya Khan swept the country. Yahya became the highest-ranking casualty of the war: to forestall further unrest, on December 20, 1971 he handed over power to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was 9th Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1973 to 1977, and prior to that, 4th President of Pakistan from 1971 to 1973. Bhutto was the founder of the Pakistan Peoples Party — the largest and most influential political party in Pakistan— and served as its chairman until his...

, age 43, the ambitious leader of West Pakistan
West Pakistan
West Pakistan , common name West-Pakistan , in the period between its establishment on 22 November 1955 to disintegration on December 16, 1971. This period, during which, Pakistan was divided, ended when East-Pakistan was disintegrated and succeeded to become which is now what is known as Bangladesh...

's powerful People's Party.

Shortly after Yahya stepped down, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was 9th Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1973 to 1977, and prior to that, 4th President of Pakistan from 1971 to 1973. Bhutto was the founder of the Pakistan Peoples Party — the largest and most influential political party in Pakistan— and served as its chairman until his...

 reversed Rahimuddin Khan's verdict, released Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was a Bengali nationalist politician and the founder of Bangladesh. He headed the Awami League, served as the first President of Bangladesh and later became its Prime Minister. He headed the Awami League, served as the first President of Bangladesh and later became its...

 and saw him off to London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

. Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was 9th Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1973 to 1977, and prior to that, 4th President of Pakistan from 1971 to 1973. Bhutto was the founder of the Pakistan Peoples Party — the largest and most influential political party in Pakistan— and served as its chairman until his...

, ordered the house arrest of his predecessor, Agha Mohammed Yahya Khan, the man who imprisoned Mujib in the first place. Both actions produced headlines round the world.

Personal life


He was known as a heavy drinker, with a preference for whiskey. Khan's close friend and mistress during his reign was Akleem Akhtar, otherwise known as General Rani (General's Queen).

External links



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