LAHORE, Dec 17: Gen A.A.K Niazi, then commander of the eastern command, said on Wednesday that he had surrendered to the Indian army in 1971 under instructions from then president Yahya Khan.

Yahya Khan, he said in an interview on Wednesday, had sent him a message that to save West Pakistan surrender in eastern wing was imperative. “It is wrong to say that the surrender decision had been taken at the local level”.

Gen Niazi said he could continue fighting with the 34,000 troops with him at the time, but he had to surrender to save West Pakistan.

The former general defended his strategy he had adopted at the time. “I have no regrets; my conscience is clear”.

In response to a question, he said Pakistan would not have dismembered if power had been transferred to Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, with Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto sitting on opposition benches and Gen Yahya Khan not harbouring the desire to stay on as president.

He said under the democratic principles, Mujib had the right to claim power after winning majority seats in the assembly.

Gen Niazi said it was wrong to say that 92,000 Pakistani troops had been made POWs. In all, he claimed, they were 34,000.

He claimed that India would have released all the POWs even if Mr Bhutto had not intervened as New Delhi could not bear the burden for long.

Gen Niazi said the army recognized his performance and it was for this reason that he had been conferred Hilal-i-Jurat. He said only Mr Bhutto found fault with him.

He denied that he was involved in the smuggling of betel leaves. He claimed that he had burnt Rs100 million at his disposal then, and a man having so much money could not be supposed to involve himself in ‘pan’ smuggling.

In response to a question, Gen Niazi said his performance in then East Pakistan should not be under-rated. He said he had controlled insurgency with only 34,000 troops.

Gen Niazi said even a country like the United States had performed badly in Vietnam, but its performance in Afghanistan offered a different picture.

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