Yahya Khan

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Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan NePl (Urdu: آغا محمد یحییٰ خان‎; 4 February 1917 – 10 August 1980), commonly known as Yahya Khan, was a Pakistani general who served as the third president of Pakistan, serving in this post from 25 March 1969 until turning over his presidency in December 1971. Along with Tikka Khan, he is considered a chief architect of the 1971 Bangladesh genocide.

Quotes about Khan

  • Yahya was far more to Kissinger’s taste. Kissinger once said that he had “pretty good relations with Yahya,” although without Nixon’s full embrace. “They liked him,” says Hoskinson. “He was a soldier. He had style. He was kind of a jaunty guy.” Hoskinson admits that Yahya was not the brightest person, but says that for Nixon and Kissinger, “He was a man’s man. He wasn’t some woman running a country.”
    • quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • Kissinger once told the president himself, “Another stupid mistake he [Yahya] made was to expel so many Hindus from East Pakistan. It gave the Indians a great cause” for war.
    • Kissinger, quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide. ch 10
  • Yahya did manage to convince Kissinger that he was an idiot. “Yahya is no genius,” Kissinger later told Nixon, forsaking the president’s sentimental fondness for the man. Soon after his return to Washington, Kissinger said scornfully, “it is my impression that Yahya and his group would never win any prizes for high IQs or for the subtlety of their political comprehension. They are loyal, blunt soldiers, but I think they have a real intellectual problem in understanding why East Pakistan should not be part of West Pakistan.” He later recalled that “fundamentally he [Yahya] was oblivious to his perils and unprepared to face necessities. He and his colleagues did not feel that India was planning war; if so, they were convinced that they would win. When I asked as tactfully as I could about the Indian advantage in numbers and equipment, Yahya and his colleagues answered with bravado about the historic superiority of Moslem fighters.”
    At a dinner—where Kissinger started showily complaining of a stomachache—Yahya bellowed, “Everyone calls me a dictator.” He went around the table asking all the guests, Pakistanis and Americans, “Am I a dictator?” Everyone tactfully said that he was not, until he came to Kissinger. “I don’t know, Mr. President,” replied Kissinger, “except that for a dictator you run a lousy election.”
    • quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide. ch 10
  • Tikka Khan was a soldier doing a soldier’s job. He went to East Pakistan with precise orders and came back by precise orders. He did what he was ordered to do, though he wasn’t always in agree­ment, and I picked him because I know he’ll follow my orders with the same discipline. And he won’t try to stick his nose in politics. I can’t destroy the whole army, and anyway his bad reputation for the events in Dacca is exaggerated. There’s only one man really respon­sible for those events—Yahya Khan. Both he and his advisers were so drunk with power and corruption they’d even forgotten the honor of the army. They thought of nothing but acquiring beautiful cars, building beautiful homes, making friends with bankers, and sending money abroad. Yahya Khan wasn’t interested in the government of the country, he was interested in power for its own sake and nothing else. What can you say of a leader who starts drinking as soon as he wakes up and doesn’t stop until he goes to bed? You’ve no idea how painful it was to deal with him. He was really Jack the Ripper.
    • Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, April 1972 interview to Oriana Fallaci, as quoted in Interviews with History and Conversations with Power (2011).
  • Yahya Khan claimed to be a descendant of Nadir Shah . Robert Payne commented : “ That Nadir Shah was inhumanely cruel and rapacious , a looter and murderer on a prodigious scale , was not a matter which gave him much concern . ”
    • Attributed, in Kamra A. J. (2000). The prolonged partition and its pogroms : testimonies on violence against Hindus in East Bengal 1946-64. pp. 179
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