Yahya Khan was the military ruler, dictator, and president of Pakistan. He was a Shia Muslim who was born in a family that had migrated from Afghanistan. Ayub Khan, the first dictator of Pakistan, had promoted Aga Yahya Khan a lot in the army. However, Yahya later overthrew Ayub and seized power. He imposed martial law in the whole country. Under his rule, the 1970 nation wide elections were held in Pakistan, in which Sheikh Mujib Rahman got a major victory in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). But the temperamental Yahya did not hand over the throne to him but put him in jail. Because of this, the situation in East Pakistan had deteriorated and the matter had increased so much that eventually, Bangladesh became a new country by separating from Pakistan.
Yahya was considered a colorful-tempered ruler. He had a very close relationship with the famous singer Malika-e-Tarannum Noor Jahan. Her attachment and relationship with Akleem Akhtar was such that people started calling her General Rani. Yahya was very fond of parties and giving gifts, he used to organize parties every week for one reason or the other. Rivers of wine flowed here and Shabab is mentioned in many books.
Pakistani rulers Tilak Deveshar, who has studied in-depth and was a special secretary in the Indian Cabinet Secretariat, has given a good description of this in his book Pakistan at the Helm. He has written that Yahya Khan was a Persian-speaking Pathan. He also spoke Punjabi very well. His spot response and sense of humor were also amazing. But they also had many evils. He was also very fond of drinking alcohol. He had all the demerits of a drunken person.
He used to start drinking alcohol every day at eight in the evening and would become uncontrollable by 10 pm. Because of this, he was so infamous that the military commanders were instructed not to obey any verbal order of Yahya given after 10 o’clock in the night. This order was given by the Chief of the Staff of Pakistan General Abdul Hameed Khan himself to all the senior officers of the states. At the same time, it was also said that even if any such order comes, they should be followed only when they themselves confirm it from the President’s office the next day.
A very famous anecdote has been told in Pakistan at Helm’s book ‘Pakistan’s Drift into Extremism’ by Hasan Abbas. This was in 1971 when Bengali fighters were fighting for independence in East Pakistan and the Pakistan-Pakistan war was going on on the western border. This fight had reached its turning point. Yahya was partying on the evening of the day just before the surrender of the Pakistan Army. He had built a new house for himself in Peshawar and gave his ‘House Warming’ party. As the party got underway, people started taking off their clothes while intoxicated. There came a time when men and women without clothes were seen in the whole party. In such a situation, Yahya had insisted on leaving one of her friends at home in the same naked condition. However, his military secretary somehow explained to him that he should go out only after wearing clothes.
The secret of the war was spit out intoxicated: About 10 days before the start of the 1971 war between India and Pakistan, Yahya Khan told American journalist Bob Shapleyko of New Yorker magazine that he intended to attack India. Yahya, who was partying at that time, was very drunk and had spewed it all in the same condition. Yahya proved to be true when Pakistan launched air strikes on military bases in India’s northwest on December 3, 1971. Soon after, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi called the air strikes a war waged on the country. At midnight on the same day, India launched a military, air, and naval attack on East Pakistan and now Bangladesh.
Women were his weakness: British journalist Owen Bennett Jones has told in his book ‘Pakistan: Eye of the Storm’ that Yahya Khan was also called ‘Ladies Man’. He was friends with many women. There was such a close friendship with Akleem Akhtar that people started calling her ‘General Rani’. He used to affectionately call Noor Jahan as ‘Noori’.