General Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan, (Urdu: آغا محمد یحیی خان قزلباش ; 4 February 1917 – 10 August 1980), was the senior Army Commander who was the third President of Pakistan, and the military dictator from 1969 until the dissolution of East-Pakistan, in 16 December 1971.
Khan was commissioned into the Indian Army and served with distinction in World War II, seeing active service in the North Africa, Middle East, and Mediterranean theatres of the war. After the war, he opted for Pakistani citizenship and became one of the earliest senior officers in the Pakistan Armed Forces. After Operation Grand Slam during the Indo-Pakistani war of 1965, Khan was promoted to become one of the Pakistan Army's top commanders. He was first appointed as Chief Martial Law Administrator on March 20, 1969, succeeding Field Marshal Ayub Khan as military dictator and president on March 29, declaring martial law and dissolving much of the civilian infrastructure, government ministries and appointments, replacing them with military infrastructure and personnel instead.
Initially allied with the United States, Khan took tough strong action against his political rivals and opponents, using the means of repressive force to curb the uprising of 1969 in East Pakistan, and the civil disorder in West Pakistan. In 1970 the Bhola cyclone hit, killing 500,000 people and causing mass chaos. With the growing influence of leftists and democratic socialists, under the leadership of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and amid growing public pressure and wide public disapproval of his policies and government, Khan was forced to hold the general election of 1970. The elections sparked the gruesome violence in Pakistan and tension between Awami League and the Pakistan Peoples Party began to rise. To ease off the pressure in East Pakistan, Khan appointed Nurul Amin, a prominent Pakistan Movement activist of Bengali origin, as Vice-president and Prime minister as well, but took the executive power under his control. Pressured by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Khan refused to hand over the powers to the majority party, Awami League and situation in East-Pakistan ran out of government control, prompting Khan to authorised military operations, like Operation Searchlight, in the entire provisional state.
The operations never resulted in success and had ignited a gruesome insurgency that Khan was unable to tackle down with complete force. They also caused the 1971 Bangladesh atrocities to occur. By the end of 1971, Khan soon faced another war with India that lasted less than two weeks. Isolated, and attempting to forestall further unrest, Khan handed over the power to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on 16 December 1971, and stepped down as Commander-in-Chief. Soon after falling from military presidency, Bhutto ordered the arrest of Yahya Khan, dishonoring him by withdrawing the military decorations conferred to him by the state, denying the benefits military and government pensions, and placing him into the house arrest, for the most of the 1970s. Khan was finally released after Bhutto's death in 1979, by General Fazle Haq, and died on 10 August 1980 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Khan survived with one son, Ali Yahya and one daughter, Yasmeen Khan.