Three days into the Liberation War of 1971, Yahya Khan was invited to an event organised by one of his generals. The festivity surrounding it made it hard to believe a war was going on in the country.
All of a sudden, Yahya Khan began to put out the decorative balloons with the cigarette he was smoking. For every balloon that he burst, he yelled out a name. "Now Jagjivan Ram [then Indian defence minister] is destroyed! Now Bhutto [Zulfikar Ali Bhutto] is destroyed!"
After the final balloon exploded, he said, "And now Sheikh Mujib is destroyed!" He then left with his partner, the famous singer Noor Jehan, Dewan Barindranath wrote in his 2016 book "Private life of Yahya Khan".
Apparently, he was not always this eccentric; before he became the Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA) in 1969, Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan was known as a well-reputed army officer, an efficient ruler, a kind father, and a loyal husband.
The time he passed as president of Pakistan, however, portrays a different picture — Strings of affairs with women and alcoholism was synonymous with his name.
A story was circulating at that time that American President Nixon wanted his diplomats to talk to Yahya and find ways to reduce bloodshed in East Pakistan but Yahya was so inebriated that he said something like, "I do not need you imbeciles [American diplomats] to arrange for a surrender!"
When the Liberation War began, he became paranoid with fear; a fear of losing, perhaps. He would regularly suffer from hallucinations about Bhutto, Indira Gandhi, and Jagjivan Ram.
Journalist Amir Taheri of Iranian newspaper Kayhan International lived close to the Presidential Guest House in 1971. In an issue published on 27 February 1972, he wrote that during the war, Yahya Khan would drink two to two and a half litres of alcohol every day to calm his nerves. Sometimes he would apparently wake up at night, screaming, "Take Mujib away from here and hang him!"
A doctor would regularly give him medicines to calm him down; a small price to pay for murdering, raping and torturing innocent Bangalis.
Like father, like son
Yahya's father Saadat Ali Khan worked for the Punjab Police. Editor of Karachi's Akhbar-e-Jehan magazine, Mahmood Shaam, once revealed that in 1931, when the British soldiers murdered Indian revolutionaries Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, and Sukhdev, they took Saadat's help to put a lid on everything.
He was given the task of secretly burning the bodies near the Sutlej River in Ferozepur, Punjab. He did it so efficiently that he was given a promotion along with the title of "Khan".
Before he became a tyrant
Yayha Khan was known as a hardworking student. He was not brilliant but he tried his best to excel in his studies. After graduating from Punjab University in 1939, he was appointed as a commissioned officer in the Indian Army. In 1951, General Ayub promoted Yahya to the rank of Brigadier. Eventually, he became Pakistan Army's youngest Major General.
When fellow officers indulged in drinking, partying, etc., Yahya always left at 8pm to have dinner with his family. However, things began to rapidly change once he became the president. The first six months were fine, but when the political situation in Pakistan began to change, so did he.
Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report and his blatant lies
"There will come a day when I may or may not be alive but the people of Pakistan will realise who broke the country apart and why," General Yahya Khan said in his written statement presented in front of the Hamoodur Rahman Commission.
The commission was established on 26 December 1971 under the then Chief Justice Hamoodur Rahman to find out details of who played what role in Pakistan's 1971 debacle.
In his report, Yahya admitted that the true battle was lost the day the Pakistani soldiers began to attack the Bangalis.
"This is the time to submit that in my assessment the battle for Pakistan was lost when the army confronted the civilians on the street of East Pakistan," he wrote, according to Muntassir Mamoon's 2001 book Yahya Khan O Mukijuddha.
Yahya said on 25 March 1971 that he had ordered the Pakistani Army to handle "armed resistance". As author Muntassir Mamoon rightly mentioned in his book, there was no armed resistance from Bangalis before 25 March. Yayha said he had also ordered the use of "minimum force".
On Hindu Bangalis fleeing the country and the atrocities of the Pakistani soldiers, he said, "A large number of Hindus had, indeed, voluntarily migrated to India."
"This was far from the truth," was his take on the Pak Army committing a genocide in East Pakistan. In the commission report, he denied having a drinking problem, or having multiple affairs with women. Apparently, he was capable of working for hours without taking a single drop of alcohol.
He signed off the deposition by writing "Yayha Khan, an illegally captured general."
Nothing was heard from Yahya Khan, or about him, again until he died in 1980. He had one son, Ali Yahya Khan, who probably passed away in 2012. Indian author and journalist Dewan Barindranath wrote in his book, "The reasons behind the rise and fall of Yahya Khan were his desire to be a legend, his limitless drinking, and debauchery."