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Gen Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan - 3

September 10, 2000

TO the credit of the man, it must be said that Yahya Khan never denied responsibility for the part he played in the dismemberment of Jinnah's Pakistan. He made this admission on many an occasion, as well as to the Hamoodur Rahman Commission. The final sentence of Major-General Rao Farman Ali Khan's book 'How Pakistan Got Divided' reads: "A far as Yahya was concerned, the Commission stated that he had accepted responsibility for everything."

The people of Pakistan stand guilty of having denied him an open trial, which he never ceased to ask for. But he died unheard. Bhutto took over what remained of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan on December 20, 1971, and Yahya was thereafter held virtually incommunicado in various locations until freed by Zia in 1977. By that time he was paralyzed, having suffered a stroke.

Hamoodur Rahman, from Lahore on January 11, 1972, addressed a letter to Yahya informing him that the Commission would be sitting as of January 17, and that "we would soon be needing your version of these historic happenings during which you were the head of state, head of government, Chief Martial Law Administrator, C-in-C Army and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces." Yahya was requested to ensure that "your statement is delivered to the Commission not later than Monday, 24th January 1972." With the letter was an eight-page questionnaire.

In his reply, Yahya wrote: "I have today (18 January, '72) received letter no-6-ICW/72 from Mr Justice Hamoodur Rahman, the Chief justice of Pakistan. I am located at the Forest Dak Bungalow, Banni. I am required to give my statement not later than 24 Jan '72. I would like to make it clear at the outset that I have no access to any records of the Central Government or General Headquarters to give details of events or exact dates, etc. of the various events."

Twenty-three typed pages follow, the closing sentences reading: "This briefly ends my narrative of the events of the past two and a half years which stated earlier is all I can produce from Memory. The other items given in Annexure A of your letter no. 6-ICW/72 dated 11 Jan '72, if not already covered in the narrative, will require the study of documents of the Central Government, Ministry of Defence, and General Headquarters to which I have no access at the moment. I would welcome any clarification which is to be sought on any point that I have mentioned or may not have mentioned, but I would like to make it clear that any more answers or statements required of me will need the availability of those documents and the presence of many functionaries of the government, both civil and military, who were associated in these events with me."

Many swansongs have been written and read. Worthy of reproduction are certain excerpts from the book, 'Bhutto - a political biography' by Salman Taseer, an intelligent pro-Bhutto Pipian. According to Taseer, his book was banned by Zia. On the Hamoodur Rahman report:

"After the conflict was over, bhutto commissioned a report on the entire Bangladesh episode from Mr Justice Hamoodur Rahman, Chief Justice of Pakistan, and himself a Bengali. Bhutto testified before the commission whose sessions were held in camera throughout, but he never published the final report, arguing some parts of it could embarrass Pakistan in its conduct of foreign that some parts of it could embarrass Pakistan in the conduct of foreign relations. His detractors preferred to suggest that Bhutto never dated issue the report because he was so heavily implicated in the political chicanery and blundering that preceded the country's break-up. That may be so. But it is equally likely that the Hamoodur Rahman commission report was by no means the final word on political responsibility for the catastrophe that overcame Pakistan. Considering the circumstances in which the commission worked, its final report may even have erred in Bhutto's favour.

"Blame can never be satisfactorily or finally apportioned to the major players in this grisly drama, but that Bhutto, Mujibur Rahman and Yahya Khan share responsibility there can be no doubt. Many, indeed, are inclined to the view that Bhutto, as the most sure-footed politician of the three and thus the best equipped to assess the consequences of his actions, must accept the lion's share of the blame. Argument on this point will remain one of the central themes of Pakistani politics, perhaps for decades."

Comments on Bhutto's political nature:

"After the election the situation changed drastically. Bhutto now saw that Mujibur Rahman with his majority of seats could form a government even without support from West Pakistan. And yet he was not the man to play second fiddle. With control of only two provincial governments out of five, he saw his position as far from assured." [As for playing second fiddle, I myself have heard him say: 'I'd rather be the top dog of half of Pakistan than an underdog of the whole of Pakistan.']

"Perhaps another politician with more moral scruple and with greater respect for democracy would have bowed before the will of the majority and quietly entered the Constituent Assembly to debate the future of Pakistan. Bhutto, however, possessed none of these gentle characteristics. He never had much faith in the parliamentary process."

"There was another danger in convening the Assembly. It was quite possible that a number of elected members from West Pakistan would give way to the Awami League's dominant position and compromise with them, enabling Mujibur Rahman to get the two-thirds majority needed to pass the constitution. Bhutto could not trust his own party, which consisted of a motley group of individuals, some of whom he barely knew and who had been swept into power on a wave of pro-Bhutto feeling."

On Bhutto's speech made on February 28, 1971, at public meeting at Lahore, where he offered Mujibur Rahman a carrot in the form of three alternatives - agreement on three of the Six Points, or postponement of the National Assembly meeting, or a waiving of the Legislative Framework Order.

"After the carrot, he them threatened the stick. The latter part of his speech was possibly the most belligerent he had ever made. He threatened a strike from the Khyber Pass to Karachi - 'not a single shope would be allowed to remain open.' He promised that the people of Pakistan would take full revenge from anybody who attended the Assembly session when they returned from Dacca, or, as he expressed himself, he 'would break their legs'. In spite of Bhutto's three alternative conditions, Sheikh mujibur Rahman refused to budge."

On Bhutto's role in the break-up:

"In such a central and traumatic event in Pakistan's existence, Bhutto has long been under suspicion over his role. he proved a voluble defendant and some would certainly argue that he protested rather too much. From the time of the army crackdown he compulsively sought to justify himself, reiterating Mujib's secessionist stance, the blunders of previous politicians and his own record in arguing East Pakistan's economic exploitation."

Now to skip forward thirty years. Our troubles are far from over. A self-confessed born-again Muslim, a former chief of the Inter Services intelligence, Lt-General Javed Nasir, now retired but holding a high position in the present government, is one of the several retired generals, admirals and air marshals who have taken to writing in the national press. I quote from his column, 'Possibility of a nuclear war' (The News, September 7, 2000):

"It is immaterial who initiates the nuclear war; the end result in either case will be the same. In this mutual mass suicide, the casualties are going to be in hundreds of millions on both sides. The world will not even have enough vultures to clear the carrion.

"The rest of the world will receive doses of radiation from the fallout in quantums which will be hundreds of thousands times more than what some European countries experienced from Chernobyl. Time is running out. India has not shown any respect for international commitments in the past. It will not behave differently in the future. USA, G-8, and the rest must act, and act quickly, before it is too late, if they want to save the billion-plus of South Asia and the rest of the world from a nuclear holocaust."