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Pakistan: Secret Affidavit of Yahya Khan

“It was Bhutto, not Mujib, who broke Pakistan. Bhutto’s stance in 1971 and his stubbornness harmed Pakistan’s solidarity much more than Sheikh Mujib’s six-point demand. It was his high ambitions and rigid stance that led to rebellion in East Pakistan. He riled up the Bengalis and brought an end to Pakistan’s solidarity. East Pakistan broke away.”

The above statement was made by former President of Pakistan General Aga Muhammed Yahya Khan (February 4, 1971 – August 10, 1980) in his secret Affidavit placed with the Lahore High Court. Twenty-seven years after his death, in December 2005 the Pakistan government released this document for public information. In this affidavit, Yahya Khan describes many sensational incidents that occurred before the 1971 war and after, during his rule. He writes of his role as President, his shortcomings, of how he was used like a pawn in a chess game. He speaks of traitors behind the scenes, of the roles played by Bhutto and Mujib, of how and why the Pakistan army cracked down on Bengalis, how far the Generals were responsible, who were behind the genocide and so on. Other than the Hamudur Rahman Commission Report of 1972, this is the only publication containing the statements of Yahya Khan, giving his version of the events of 1971.

Once the war ended, Bhutto immediately took over power and placed President Yahya Khan under house arrest. The Bhutto government treated Yahya Khan and his family ruthlessly. When General Ziaul Huq came to power in 1977, he released Yahya Khan. It was then that Yahya decided on this affidavit, to record his statements for posterity. He made this affidavit through Advocate Manzur Ahmed Rana of the Lahore High Court.

The affidavit consists of 57 pages. Before the affidavit was filed with the court, Yahya Khan carefully scrutinised each typed page in May 1978 at his house in Rawalpindi . He made a few amendments here and there and then signed the document, declaring it to be the truth.

After a long spell of illness, this military ruler finally breathed his last in August 1980 in the house of his brother Muhammed Ali in Lahore .

In his affidavit, Yahya Khan states how the government had been pushed back against the wall. Awami League President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman gained immense power and Yahya Khan could not accept his attitude. He says that Mujib had brought the administration to a standstill. This was unacceptable, intolerable. This was a rebellion against the government. He says that there was no alternative to military action against this uprising. He says he did not launch Operation Searchlight on March 25, 1971 at the behest of Bhutto or anyone else. He issued these order in his capacity as President and Army Chief in order to quell the uprising.

Yahya Khan, in this document, is unwilling to accept that the cessation of East Pakistan and the surrender of the Pakistan army as a military defeat. He says this is was a naked conspiracy of India. He berates India and Russia for their role in this regard and has all gratitude for the United States and China for their support. He terms Mujib as a patriot, but says that Awami League had a section of radical leftists who were instigating him. They did not want to relinquish the opportunity to materialise India’s long cherished dream of breaking up Pakistan.

According to Yahya Khan, it was Tikka Khan who issued the orders to capture Mujib dead or alive. Bhutto had wanted to hang Mujib. Mujib was prepared to change his six-point demand if necessary. The news of America’s Seventh Fleet and China’s involvement in the war were rumours. Yahya claims that in the end he wanted to leave East Pakistan’s power in the hands of Awami League.

This 112-page book devotes 48 pages to the original text and 24 pages to some rare photographs. It also contains a life sketch of Yahya Khan as well as Rushd’s comments on the affidavit.

The book has been dedicated to Bir Shrestha Ruhul Amin who gave his life for the country in 1971.The book is undoubtedly of interest to those interested in the history of the Liberation War. Abu Rushd says, “Gen. Yahya is nothing but a villain in our history but his accounts on 1971 surely are valuable and matters of reference in pursuing historical evidences. I hope this affidavit will make us know Yahya’s part of the quagmire imposed upon us forcibly and unjustly by the Pak military junta.”

Abu Rushd, editor of the Secret Affidavit of Yahya Khan, is a journalist. He is the Editor of Bangladesh Defence Journal. His interest lies in investigative journalism, particularly in the fields of security and defence. He has dealt in this sector while working for various dailies in the past. It is his interest in this field that led him to publish this particular book and also to publish the Secret Affidavit of Yahya Khan in Bangladesh Defence Journal and in Amar Desh, a daily newspaper from Dhaka.

(Edited by: Abu Rushd, First Edition: February 2009, Published by: Bangladesh Defence Journal)

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