Last modified 11 September 2011.
First published 19 May 2006
Kill tally: 200,000 to three million during the 1971 conflict in East Pakistan (Bangladesh).
Background: British occupation of India begins at the start of the 17th Century, with the 'Raj' reaching its zenith at the end of the 19th Century. Indian opposition to colonial rule gains focus in the early 20th Century as the nation unites to expel the British.
The Indian National Congress is formed in Bombay in 1885 as a debating society and lobby group composed of concerned Indian professionals and British citizens. The Hindu-dominated Congress becomes radicalised after 1900 and is soon the leading organisation within a broad-based freedom struggle to expel the British and obtain Indian self-rule.
However, the Congress fails to gain the support of Muslim Indians, who found the All-India Muslim League in 1906 as the voice of a "nation within a nation." More background.
Mini biography: Born on 4 February 1917 in Chakwal, in Hindustan in the north of Pakistan. His family has a long history of military service. After receiving a grammar school education and graduating from Punjab University he enrols in the Indian Military Academy at Dehra Dun, in the foothills of the Himalayas.
1933 - The name Pakistan is coined by a group of university students who are opposed to the idea of a federated India and support the partitioning of the country into national states. In a pamphlet titled 'Now or Never' they write, "Pakistan ... is ... composed of letters taken from the names of our homelands: that is, Punjab, Afghania (Northwest Frontier Province), Kashmir, Iran, Sindh, Tukharistan, Afghanistan, and Baluchistan. It means the land of the Paks, the spiritually pure and clean."
The pamphlet makes no reference to the state of Bengal in the east of India. Bengal has a large population of Muslims.
1934 - Mohammed Ali Jinnah takes over the leadership of the Muslim League. Jinnah believes that India is composed of "two nations", one Hindu the other Islamic.
1935 - Limited self-rule is achieved when the British Parliament passes the Government of India Act. The Act gives Indian provinces a system of democratic, autonomous government.
1937 - In February, after elections under the Government of India Act bring the Congress to power in a majority of the provinces, the party is faced with a dilemma. Jinnah asks for the formation of coalition Congress-Muslim League governments in some of the provinces. His request is denied.
The subsequent clash between the Congress and the Muslim League hardens into a conflict between Hindus and Muslims that will ultimately lead to the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan.
1938 - Yahya Khan is commissioned as an officer into the Indian Army and posted to the Northwest Frontier Province. During the Second World War he serves as an officer in the British Indian 4th Division, seeing action in Iraq, Italy and North Africa.
1939 - When the Second World War breaks out in September Britain unilaterally declares India's participation on the side of the Allies. In response the Congress withdraws from government and decides it will not to support the British war effort unless India is granted complete and immediate independence. The Muslim League, however, supports the British during the war.
1940 - On 23 March, at its annual session in Lahore, the Muslim League adopts the 'Pakistan Resolution'. The resolution calls for areas with a Muslim majority in India's northwest and northeast to be partitioned from the Hindu core into separate "constituent states to be autonomous and sovereign."
The League states that any independence plan without this provision would be unacceptable to Muslims. Congress rejects the proposition.
In 1946 the League modifies the resolution to call for a "unified Pakistan" with east and west wings.
1942 - In June Yahya Khan is captured by the Axis forces in North Africa and sent to a prisoner of war camp in Italy. After three attempts he escapes from the camp.
1944 - The British Government agrees to independence for India on condition that the two contending nationalist groups, the Muslim League and the Congress Party, resolve their differences. In September Congress leader Mahatma Gandhi discusses the possibility of partition with Jinnah. The talks fail to resolve the issue.
1946 - Congress Party President Jawaharlal Nehru is invited by the British to form an interim government to organise the transition to independence. Fearing it will be excluded from power, the Muslim League declares 16 August 'Direct Action Day'. When communal rioting breaks out in the north, partition comes to be seen as a valid alternative to the possibility of civil war.
1947 - On 3 June British Prime Minister Clement Attlee introduces a bill to the House of Commons calling for the independence and partition of the British Indian Empire into the separate nations of India and Pakistan. On 14 July the House of Commons passes the India Independence Act.
Under the Act Pakistan is to be comprised of a West Wing and an East Wing focused on the Muslim population centres of the Punjab (West Pakistan) and Bengal (East Pakistan) on either side of India.
The two wings are separated by a distance of 1,600 kilometres. They are climatically, geographically, culturally and linguistically distinct.
The East is wet and flat. The population is ethnically homogeneous. Their principal language and culture is Bangla (Bengali). Their staple crop is rice. They make up about 54% of Pakistan's entire population.
The West is dry and rugged. Its population consists of four major ethnic groups (Punjabis, Pakhtuns, Sindhis and Baluchis). Its principal language is Urdu. Its staple crop is wheat.
On 14 August Pakistan is declared to be independent. India formally attains its sovereignty at midnight on the same day.
Amid the celebrations sectarian riots erupt as Muslims in India flee to Pakistan while Hindus in the Pakistan flee the opposite way. As many as two million die in north India, at least 12 million become refugees, and a limited war over the incorporation of Kashmir into India breaks out between the two nation states.
Jinnah becomes head of state of the Dominion of Pakistan when he is appointed as the country's first governor general. He is also leader of the Muslim League and president of the Constituent Assembly. He has no formal limitations on his constitutional powers. His prime minister is Liaquat Ali Khan.
Soon after partition inequalities begin to develop between Pakistan's East and West wings. Urdu is declared the official language, causing resentment among the Bangla-speakers of the East.
The central government and military are based in West Pakistan. The banking and finance sectors of the East come to be controlled by West Pakistanis. East Pakistanis are under-represented in the civil and military services.
Urdu speakers from the West dominate management positions and the skilled labour force in the East. They in turn favour Urdu-speaking Biharis (refugees from the northern Indian state of Bihar living in East Pakistan) for general workforce positions.
The East receives less than half of the country's development funds and less than a quarter of its foreign aid, even though it earns a greater amount of foreign exchange than the West.
Meanwhile, Yahya Khan helps to establish the Pakistani Staff College at Quetta in Baluchistan.
1948 - In September Jinnah dies. Liaquat Ali Khan now takes full leadership of Pakistan.
1949 - The Awami League is founded by Bengali leaders in the East. The aim of the League is to promote Bengali interests and secure autonomy for the East.
1951 - On 16 October Liaquat Ali Khan is assassinated by fanatics opposed to his refusal to wage war against India. He is replaced as prime minister by Khwaja Nazimuddin, a Bengali and the then governor general. Ghulam Mohammad is appointed as governor general.
Meanwhile, Yahya Khan is promoted to the rank of brigadier-general and placed in command of the 106 Infantry Brigade, which is deployed on the line-of-control in Kashmir. He is later promoted to deputy chief-of-staff of the army.
1952 - Attempts to impose Urdu as the second language in East Pakistan provoke riots. On 22 February during a language demonstration in Dhaka, the capital of the East, police fire on the crowd and kill two students. Two years later the Constituent Assembly designates "Urdu and Bengali and such other languages as may be declared" as the official languages of Pakistan.
1953 - Prime Minister Nazimuddin is dismissed by Governor General Ghulam Mohammad in April.
1954 - In general elections the Muslim League is defeated in the East by the United Front, a coalition campaigning for autonomy for the East. However, the United Front is prevented from taking office by Ghulam Mohammad, who imposes governor's rule on the East under Major General Iskander Mirza.
Ghulam Mohammad also dismisses the Pakistan Constituent Assembly and appoints his own "cabinet of talents", including a number of senior officers from the military.
Yahya Khan is chosen to head a planning board set up to modernise the Pakistan Army.
1955 - The Constituent Assembly is reconvened, with the United Front taking its seats in the house. Ghulam Mohammad resigns as governor general. He dies the following year. Mirza replaces him.
1956 - Pakistan's first constitution is finally accepted on 2 March, nine years after independence. The constitution proclaims Pakistan an Islamic republic and renames the Constituent Assembly the Legislative Assembly. The office of governor general is renamed president.
The constitution decrees that each wing of Pakistan will have the same number of representatives in the parliament, meaning that the East, with its larger population, is under-represented.
Though the United Front does form a coalition government no party in the Assembly is able to maintain a stable majority or withstand the meddling of Mirza.
The country begins to fracture, with different regions pushing for autonomy.
1957 - Yahya Khan is appointed as army chief-of-staff and is promoted to a full general.
1958 - On 7 October President Mirza, with the support of Army Commander-in-chief General Mohammad Ayub Khan, suspends the 1956 constitution, imposes martial law, abolishes political parties and cancels the elections scheduled for January 1959.
On 27 October Mirza swears in a 12-member cabinet that includes Ayub Khan as prime minister and three other generals in ministerial positions.
The same day Mirza is ousted by Ayub Khan and sent into lifetime exile in London. Ayub Khan assumes control of a military government. Yahya Khan is one of the military figures who have supported Ayub Khan's coup.
Although an autocrat Ayub Khan introduces various reforms. He isolates the military from the government decision-making process, relying instead on senior civil servants and a few conservative politicians, and also takes steps to accommodate the grievances of the East.
Bengali members of the civil service are preferred for posts in the East; Dhaka is designated the legislative capital of Pakistan, and Islamabad the administrative capital; and public investment in the East Pakistan is increased.
1962 - A new constitution ending martial law and creating a political system with all executive power vested in the president is introduced in March. Pakistan is declared a republic and the National Assembly is established as the federal legislature, with sessions to be held alternately in Dhaka and Islamabad. Late in the year political parties are again legalised. Factions from the Muslim League are remoulded into the Pakistan Muslim League (PML), the official government party.
1963 - Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (Mujib) assumes the leadership of the Awami League, which is now East Pakistan's dominant political party. Mujib emerges as leader of the Bengali autonomy movement.
1965 - Skirmishes break out between Pakistani and Indian forces along the border at the Rann of Kutch in the southeast in April. They spread to Kashmir. The skirmishes at the Rann of Kutch are soon resolved but the conflict in Kashmir proves more intractable and develops into the Second Indo-Pakistani War.
On 23 September a cease-fire is arranged through the UN Security Council.
During the war Yahya Khan commands an infantry division.
1966 - In March Yahya Khan is appointed as commander-in-chief of the Pakistan Army and promoted from major-general to lieutenant-general. He is instrumental in reorganising and modernising the Pakistan Army. He works to improve communications, decentralise decision making, increase the strength of the infantry and create an independent command structure in the East.
In February, at a meeting of Pakistani opposition parties held in Lahore, Mujib presents a six-point political and economic program for achieving autonomy for the East.
The program calls for a federal parliament elected by universal suffrage, with seats allocated on the basis of population distribution and with the parliament to be responsible for foreign affairs and defence only. Under the plan each wing of Pakistan would have its own currency and paramilitary forces.
Meanwhile, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Ayub Khan's government, resigns and forms the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), becoming a vocal opposition figure.
1969 - Rioting against the Ayub Khan regime breaks out across the nation. The rioters believe that the regime is corrupt, has failed the country economically and is responsible for Pakistan's defeat in the 1965 war over Kashmir.
On 25 March Ayub Khan announces his resignation and hands over the government to Yahya Khan. Martial law is reimposed, with Yahya Khan becoming the chief martial law administrator. On 31 March Yahya Khan assumes the presidency.
The constitution is suspended and the National Assembly dissolved. However, Yahya Khan makes a commitment to the return of government under a redrafted constitution and agrees that representation in the Assembly should be determined by population distribution, ensuring that the majority of seats will be based in the East. He promises open elections with a universal "one man, one vote" adult franchise.
He also enters into discussions with leaders of political parties, dismisses almost 300 senior civil servants and attempts to curb the power of 32 families said to control about half of Pakistan's gross national product.
At the end of July Yahya Khan announces that he will double the number of Bengalis serving in the defence forces.
1970 - At the end of March Yahya Khan unveils a new interim constitution.
Pakistan's first nationwide direct elections are held on 7 December. The Awami League campaigns for almost total autonomy for the East. When it wins 160 of the 162 seats allotted to the East it becomes the majority party in the 313 seat National Assembly.
Mujib claims the prime ministership and asserts that his six-point program will be used as the basis of a new constitution.
However, the election result is not honoured, with West Pakistani politicians, led by Bhutto and supported by senior army officers, pressuring Yahya Khan to cancel the inaugural sitting of the National Assembly, making the establishment of civilian government impossible.
1971 - On 21 February Yahya Khan dissolves his civilian cabinet. The army takes full control of the government.
On 28 February Bhutto states that if the National Assembly opens as planned there will be a general strike throughout West Pakistan.
The next day Yahya Khan announces that the Assembly has been postponed indefinitely.
On 2 March Mujib calls a five-day general strike in East Pakistan. "In this critical hour it is the sacred duty of each and every Bengali in every walk of life, including government employees, not to cooperate with anti-people forces and instead to do everything in their power to foil the conspiracy against Bangladesh," he says.
The strike takes effect across the whole of the East and is followed up by a campaign of noncooperation.
On 6 March Yahya Khan announces that the National Assembly will meet on 25 March. However, the announcement is accompanied by a warning.
"Let me make it absolutely clear that no matter what happens, as long as I am in command of the Pakistan Armed Forces and Head of the State, I will ensure complete and absolute integrity of Pakistan.
"Let there be no mistake on this point. I have a duty towards millions of people of East and West Pakistan to preserve this country. They expect this from me and I shall not fail them," he says.
On 7 March Mujib states that the Awami League will only attend the Assembly if martial law is immediately revoked and power transferred to the representatives elected at the 7 December poll.
The Awami League now becomes the de facto government in the East.
On 15 March Yahya Khan flies to Dhaka for talks with Mujib. By 20 March he has provisionally agreed to the drafting of a new constitution and the introduction of an interim constitution that would end martial law. However, Bhutto rejects the proposal.
On 20 March, on the order of Yahya Khan, armed forces in East Pakistan under the command of Lieutenant-general Tikka Khan begin to prepare for a military takeover.
On 23 March Mujib issues a "declaration of emancipation" for the East. At the same time, the Awami League issues an expanded list of demands that essentially call for complete autonomy for the East within a loose confederation.
At 10 p.m. on 25 March, after talks held in Dhaka between Yahya Khan, Mujib and Bhutto break down, and after Yahya Khan has secretly left the capital, the plan for a military takeover goes into operation.
What has been described as a "wholesale slaughter" of the civilian population of the East by the Pakistan Army begins in Dhaka, centring on the university precinct and spreading to the old parts of the city and scattered shanty towns. Several hundred Bengalis are killed within hours. Many of those killed are named on death lists that have been prepared in advance.
The Awami League is outlawed and Mujib is arrested and flown to the West Wing to stand trial for treason. He is found guilty and sentenced to death.
All political activity is banned. Foreign journalists are expelled from the East and the media is censored in both the East and West wings.
Additional troops are airlifted in from West Pakistan. The violence escalates and, when the Bengalis start to fight back, tips into civil war.
By 28 March an estimated 15,000 Bengalis have been killed. By the end of August as many as 300,000 are dead.
According to an eyewitness account recorded in a report by the International Commission of Jurists, the conflict has three phases: first a general repression of all Bengalis; second the persecution of the Hindu population; and third a "Collective Punitive Reprisal Program" that comes into effect once the Bengalis begin to retaliate.
Rebel army officer Major Ziaur Rahman proclaims the "independent, sovereign republic of Bangladesh" in Chittagong on 26 March. The same day Yahya Khan declares that he has ordered the armed forces "to do their duty and fully restore the authority of the government."
Lieutenant-general A.A.K. Niazi replaces Tikka Khan on 7 April.
In April a Bangladesh government-in-exile is formed in Calcutta by a number of leading Awami League members who have escaped from East Pakistan. On 17 April the government-in-exile formally proclaims independence and names Mujib as its president.
Back in the conflict zone, rebel Bengali fighters are organised into the Mukti Bahini (Liberation Force). The East Pakistan Rifles join them. However, the Pakistan Army presses its advantage and by the middle of May controls most of the East.
Across the border, the Indian parliament passes a resolution in support of the "people of Bengal" on 31 March. India also provides the Mukti Bahini with equipment, training and other assistance.
India's actions raise tensions with Pakistan. Yahya Khan threatens war if India attempts to seize any part of Pakistan, asserting that Pakistan could count on its American and Chinese friends. (Behind the scenes Yahya Khan is acting as an intermediary in the secret negotiations between the United States and China that enable the historic visit by US President Richard M. Nixon to China in 1972.)
On 28 June Yahya Khan announces plans for the drafting of a new constitution, saying that the task should be completed in about four months. At the end of July he claims that normality has returned to the East.
At the end of August a moderate Bengali, Abdul Malik, is installed as the civilian governor of East Pakistan. On 5 September Yahya Khan declares a general amnesty. However, guerrilla activities by the Mukti Bahini increase.
On 25 October Yahya Khan invites the secretary-general of the United Nations (UN) to visit India and Pakistan in order to discuss an UN-supervised withdrawal of troops from both sides of the frontier.
On 21 November the Mukti Bahini launches an offensive on Jessore, southwest of Dhaka.
Two days later Yahya Khan declares a state of emergency in all of Pakistan and asks his people to prepare for war with India. At 4:30 p.m. on 3 December he declares war on India and launches air attacks on military targets in India's northwest. At midnight Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declares war on Pakistan.
The next day, on 4 December, India begins an integrated ground, sea and air invasion of East Pakistan. Attacks are also launched against West Pakistan.
The Indian forces in the East quickly converge on Dhaka. On 6 December India recognises Bangladesh as an independent state. The next day Yahya Khan announces he has formed a coalition government with an elderly East Pakistani at its head and with Bhutto as its deputy.
On 16 December the Pakistani forces in the East surrender unconditionally to the Indians. Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi proclaims a unilateral cease-fire on December 17.
The conflict in the East is over but it has left a dreadful toll. Media reports at the time estimate the number of Bengalis killed by the Pakistan Army at between 200,000 and three million. Between six and 12 million have taken refuge in the Indian state of West Bengal. Around 20 million have been internally displaced. There has been extensive raping (200,000 to 400,000 women raped), looting and gratuitous brutality. Thousands of Hindu villages have been destroyed. About 9,000 Pakistani troops have been killed.
Yahya Khan resigns on 20 December. Mujib is released the same day. Bhutto replaces Yahya Khan as president and chief martial law administrator. Bhutto revokes martial law and purges the military of about 1,400 officers.
East Pakistan becomes the new nation state of Bangladesh, meaning "Bengal country."
More than 90,000 prisoners of war are repatriated to Pakistan. None have been put to trial for war crimes.
1972 - At the start of January Mujib returns to Bangladesh and is sworn in as prime minister.
Meanwhile, Yahya Khan is placed under arrest. At first he is held incommunicado in an isolated forest bungalow. Later he is moved to his own house. While under house arrest he is paralysed by a stroke.
In July the Hamoodur Rahman Commission set up by Bhutto to inquire into the causes of Pakistan's surrender in the war hands down its report. The report is never released to the public. However, a supplementary report completed by the commission in 1974 is leaked to 'India Today' in July 2000.
According to the supplementary report, the commission finds:
"3. (i) That General Yahya Khan, General Abdul Hamid Khan, Lt. Gen. S.G.M.M. Pirzada, Lt. Gen. Gul Hasan, Maj. Gen. Umar and Maj. Gen. Mitha should be publicly tried for being party to a criminal conspiracy to illegally usurp power from F.M. Mohammad Ayub Khan, if necessary by the use of force. In furtherance of their common purpose they did actually try to influence political parties by threats, inducements and even bribes to support their designs both for bringing about a particular kind of result during the elections of 1970, and later persuading some of the political parties and the elected members of the National Assembly to refuse to attend the session of the National Assembly scheduled to be held at Dhaka on the 3rd of March, 1971. They, furthermore, in agreement with each other brought about a situation in East Pakistan which led to a civil disobedience movement, armed revolt by the Awami League and subsequently to the surrender of our troops in East Pakistan and the dismemberment of Pakistan:
"(ii) That the Officers mentioned in No. (i) above should also be tried for criminal neglect of duty in the conduct of war both in East Pakistan and West Pakistan. ...
"5. (i) That allegations of personal immorality, drunkenness and indulgence in corrupt practices against General Yahya Khan, General Abdul Hamid Khan and Maj. Gen. Khuda Dad Khan be properly investigated as there is prima facie evidence to show that their moral degeneration resulted in indecision, cowardice and professional incompetence. In the light of the result of this inquiry suitable charges may be added against these Officers, during the trials we have already recommended earlier."
1973 - At elections held in Bangladesh the Awami League wins 282 out of 289 directly contested seats. However, corruption and mismanagement are turning popular opinion away from Mujib.
1974 - On 22 February Pakistan recognises Bangladesh. On 17 September Bangladesh is admitted to UN.
1975 - In January the Bangladesh's constitution is amended to make Mujib president for five years and to give him full executive powers. The next month Mujib proclaims Bangladesh a one-party state. He renames the Awami League the Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League (Bangladesh Peasants, Workers, and People's League) and requires all parliamentarians along with all senior civil and military personnel to join the party. To all intents and purposes Bangladesh has been transformed into a dictatorship.
On 15 August Mujib and several members of his family are assassinated in a coup engineered by a group of young army officers. Martial law is introduced.
1976 - Formal relations between Pakistan and Bangladesh are established.
In Pakistan, Bhutto appoints General Mohammad Zia ul-Haq as chief-of-staff of the army.
1977 - On 21 April, following a period of instability, Major-general Ziaur Rahman becomes the president of Bangladesh. In June 1978 he wins a five-year term as president, with 76% of the vote. He demilitarises the government, reestablishes public order, lifts the ban on political parties and revokes martial law.
In Pakistan, Bhutto is overthrown by Zia ul-Haq on 5 July 1977. Martial law is reimposed and Bhutto is taken into custody. He is subsequently found guilty of complicity in the murder of a political opponent. He is hanged on 4 April 1979.
Yahya Khan is freed from house arrest by Zia ul-Haq.
1980 - Yahya Khan dies on 10 August in Rawalpindi. He is given a full military burial.
Ziaur Rahman is assassinated on 30 May 1981 in a plot organised by a disaffected military officer. After a brief period of civilian rule another military government, headed by General Hussain Muhammad Ershad, takes power through a coup in March 1982. Martial law is introduced, although some limited political activity is allowed.
Ershad is forced from power in December 1990. Democracy returns to Bangladesh with general elections held February 1991.
Zia remains in power until 17 August 1988 when he is killed when a plane he is travelling in explodes under suspicious circumstances.
Democracy now returns to Pakistan, with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's daughter Benazir winning enough seats at elections held in November 1988 to form a coalition government. Two years later, in August 1990, she is dismissed by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan for alleged corruption and her inability to maintain law and order.
New elections bring Mian Nawaz Sharif to power. In July 1993 both Nawaz Sharif and Ishaq Khan step down. Elections in October 1993 see the return of Benazir Bhutto to power.
In November 1996 President Farooq Leghari dismisses the Bhutto government for its alleged corruption and mismanagement of the economy. At elections in February 1997 Nawaz Sharif is returned to power. In March 1997, with the unanimous support of the National Assembly, Sharif amends the constitution to remove the president's power to dismiss the government. Further amendments make presidential appointments of military service chiefs and provincial governors contingent on the "advice" of the prime minister.
President Leghari resigns in December 1997. Rafiq Tarar replaces him. On 12 October 1999 Sharif is ousted in a military coup after attempting to replace Army Chief-of-staff General Pervez Musharraf with a crony. Two days later Musharraf declares a state of emergency and suspends the constitution along with the federal and provincial parliaments.
On 12 May 2000 Pakistan's Supreme Court unanimously validates the October 1999 coup and grants Musharraf executive and legislative authority for three years from the coup date. On 20 June 2001 Musharraf names himself as president. In a referendum held on 30 April 2002 his presidency is extended by five more years.
In November 2002 the parliament is returned to civilian control. The constitution is restored the following month.
Comment: Yahya Khan did not act alone in organising and executing the genocide in Bangladesh. Other culpable Pakistani military officers include General Tikka Khan, Chief-of-staff General Pirzada, security chief General Umar Khan and intelligence chief General Akbar Khan.
Nor does responsibility rest solely with the military. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto also played a key role, something that the Hamoodur Rahman Commission set up by him to investigate the fiasco in East Pakistan later tried to cover up by placing all the blame on Yahya Khan and his cohorts.
There is also doubt about Yahya Khan's ability to plan and manage a large-scale military exercise. According to some accounts he was not the brightest spark to ever put on a general's uniform. The disintegration of the Pakistan Army once India intervened directly in the war in the East appears to bear this out. It is possible that Yahya Khan was promoted beyond his ability. His predecessor, Ayub Khan, seems to have considered him a safe bet who would do what was required without posing a threat.
When the killing went out of control in the East Yahya Khan may not have had the capacity to stop it. But that is if he wanted to in the first place. One quote attributed to him reads, "Kill three million of them (the Bengalis) and the rest will eat out of our hands."
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