General Tikka Khan (Urdu: ٹِکّا خان ), (10 February 1915 – 28 March 2002) HJ, S.Pk, was a four-star rank army general in the Pakistan Army who was the first chief of army staff from 3 March 1972 till retiring on 1 March 1976. He is popularly known as the Butcher of Bengal.
Gaining commission as an artillery officer in the British Indian Army to participate in World War II in 1940, his military career commanded the infantry divisions in the war with India in 1965. In 1969, he was posted to command the IV Corps while acting as martial law administrator in West Pakistan under President Yahya Khan. In 1971, he took over the command of army's Eastern Command in East Pakistan and appointed as Governor of East Pakistan where he oversaw the planning and the military deployments to execute the military operations to quell the liberation war efforts by Awami League. His tough rhetoric to deal with political enemies earned him the notoriety and a nickname of "Touka" (means cleaver)[self-published source] and was soon relieved of his command by President Yahya Khan.
After commanding the II Corps in the war with India in 1971, Tikka Khan was promoted to four-star rank and appointed as the first chief of army staff of the Pakistan Army in 1972. As an army chief, he provided his support to the clandestine nuclear weapons programme alongside Ghulam Ishaq Khan— a bureaucrat. Upon retirement from the military in 1976, he was subsequently appointed as National Security Advisor by Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, only to be removed in 1977 as a result of enforced martial law. In the 1980s, he remained active as a political worker of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and emerged as its leader when appointed as Governor of Punjab after the general elections held in 1988. After Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was dismissed by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in 1990, his tenure was terminated and was succeeded by Mian Muhammad Azhar. He retired from the politics in 1990. He died on 28 March 2002 and was buried with full military honours in Westridge cemetery in Rawalpindi, Punjab, Pakistan.
Early life and World War II
Tikka Khan was born on 10 February 1915 into a Rajput Punjabi family in Jochha Mamdot village of Kallar syedan Tehsil, near Rawalpindi, Punjab, British Indian Empire. Tikka Khan never received any university education nor did he attend the Indian Military Academy at Dehradun.[clarification needed] After educating in Rawalpindi, he joined the Army Cadet College in Nowgong, Madhya Pradesh in 1933 and joined the British Indian Army as a Sepoy in 1935; he gained commissioned in the army on 22 December 1940.
He participated in World War II and fought with the 2nd Field Regiment, Regiment of Artillery in Libya against the Afrika Korps led by German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in 1940. He was captured by the German troops and held as POW in Libya for more than year. After making his successful escape, he saw military action in Burma front against Japan in 1945 where he was wounded and hospitalised for sometime. In 1946, he was posted in different parts of India such as Deolali, Mathura, and Kalyan as an army officer.
During the same time, he served as an infantry instructor at the Indian Military Academy at Dehradun. His British superiors had sneak suspicion that Captain Tikka Khan who was in the Academy not by merit but by favouritism. At the GHQ India, Tikka Khan was often subjected to jokes by his British officers.
Career in Pakistan
After the partition that followed the independence of Pakistan, Tikka Khan opted for Pakistan and joined the Pakistan Army as a Major where he was the only artillery officer in the Pakistan Army's Regiment of Artillery in 1947. His military career progressed well and got accelerated promotions in the army. In 1949, he was promoted as Lieutenant-Colonel and commander of his unit. He worked hard to raised the Medium Regiment in the new army and commanded the first post of the artillery regiment. In 1950–54, he was promoted as Colonel and became the deputy director (Dy Director) at the Regiment of Artillery.
In 1955, his promotion was approved for one-star rank and was promoted as Brigadier to command the Medium Regiment. In 1962, Tikka Khan was promoted as Major-General and posted at the GHQ in Rawalpindi.
Between the wars:1965–1971
In 1965, Major-General Tikka Khan was the GOC of the 8th Infantry Division that was positioned in Punjab, Pakistan. At that time, the 8th Infantry Division was consisted of 51 Paratrooper Brigade and 52 Infantry Brigade; in April 1965, the 8th Infantry Division intruded into the Rann of Kutch from Southern Command. Hostilities broke out in 1965 between India and Pakistan and Tikka Khan's 8th Infantry Division engaged in the battle with the Indian Army. He witnessed the tank battle in Chawinda, Punjab that is remembered as one of the largest tank battles in history since the Battle of Kursk in World War II. During the 1965 war, Tikka Khan earned reputation as a victor of Rann of Kutch and credited widely by the print media over the victories he gained over the Indian Army. He made a bold stand against the Indian Army's encirclement in the Sialkot sector in 1965. In addition, he also led the 15th Infantry Division, also in the 1965 war.
After President Ayub Khan handed over the presidency to his army chief General Yahya Khan in 1969, Tikka Khan was promoted to three-star assignment and made Lieutenant-General to command the IV Corps, stationed in Lahore. He was the martial law administrator of Punjab under President Yahya Khan who appointed him after replacing with Attiqur Rahman. His personality was well known in Pakistan as being tough and ruthless. In March 1971, Tikka Khan was sent to Dacca and left the post to Lt Gen Bahadur Sher in March 1971.
Bangladesh Liberation and 1971 war
Governorship and 1971 war
The situation was very complex in both West and East Pakistan after the general elections held in 1970 where the Bengali nationalist Awami League won 160 of the 162 seats in East Pakistan, whereas the leftist-socialist Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) won 81 seats out of 138 in West Pakistan. By constitution, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of Awami League was supposed to be the candidate for the post of Prime Minister of Pakistan but Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan Peoples Party was not ready to accept his role as Leader of the Opposition and refused to sit in the National Assembly as opposition party.
Under pressure by Bhutto and the Pakistan Peoples Party, President Yahya Khan postponed the National Assembly session despite meeting and inviting Awami League to form the government on 7 March. As a reaction, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman addressed the mass rally and called upon the Bengali people to launch the armed liberation movement against Pakistan. Responding to this, President Yahya Khan accepted the resignation of Lieutenant-General Yaqub Khan and appointed Tikka Khan as the governor of East Pakistan. In March 1971, Lieutenant-General Tikka Khan arrived in Dacca took over the governorship of East Pakistan and to command the Eastern Command of the army. He has faced accusations of killing thousands of civilians.[user-generated source] He succeeded Lieutenant General Sahabzada Yaqub Khan, and assumed the command of Eastern Command on 7 March 1971.
Acting on the instructions provided by President Yahya Khan's administration, Tikka Khan began preparations of "direct-wise military operation" against the Awami League on the evening of 25 March 1971. He ordered the arrest of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and outlawed the Awami League and ordered the attack on the University of Dhaka at midnight. Lieutenant-General Tikka Khan was the architect and top planner of Operation Searchlight. Thousands were killed in this operation, including the academia and members of civil society the country was plunged into a bloody civil war. Tikka Khan followed the classical "Seek and destroy and Infiltration" method and captured all radio stations in the East Pakistan at the price of systematic killings of Bengali people. In Pakistan alone, he became to known as "soldier known for his eager use of force"; he also earned the notoriety
In West Pakistan, the homegrown criticism grew much farther and Tikka Khan's action was widely disapproved that led to the President Yahya Khan replacing him with the populist civilian set-up. He was immediately called back to Pakistan, and relinquished the Eastern Command to Lieutenant-General Amir Khan Niazi. He was given the command of II Strike Corps based on Multan, Punjab. The II Strike Corps was based on two infantry brigades and an armoured regiment and commanded the II Strike Corps during the war with India in 1971. By the time, the ceasefire and surrendered was called, Tikka Khan had earned notoriety among his men and subordinates.
Chief of Army staff
In 1972, President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had removed Lieutenant-General Gul Hassan Khan from his position as commander-in-chief. Under a reformed set-up, Bhutto approved the promotion papers of Tikka Khan to four-star rank and appointed him as Chief of Army Staff (COAS) in 1972. Tikka Khan was highly unpopular choice in military circles for the chief of army staff because it was felt strongly that he did not have any clue about his new assignment. Tikka Khan was steadfastly loyalty to Bhutto. In 1972, he supported the militarisation of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission by supporting Munir Ahmad Khan to take over its chairmanship and directorship of clandestine atomic bomb programme. His role was implicated in the Hamoodur Rahman Commission but the responsibility issues concerning Tikka Khan were Classified.
In 1974, he planned out the military operations in Balochistan. In 1976, he provided his support to Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Bhutto to expand and support the clandestine programme. In 1976, Tikka Khan was set to retire from the military and send the proposals for his possible eight successors. Bhutto asked for his opinion on Lieutenant-General Zia-ul-Haq's military career which Tikka Khan did not recommend supporting him as chief of army staff. Tikka Khan reportedly marked to Bhutto as: I thought, he was dull. In any case, he was the most junior of all eight serving lieutenant-generals." However, Bhutto by-passed his recommendations and approved Lieutenant-General Zia-ul-Haq to four-star rank and appointed him as army chief. Upon retirement from army, Khan joined the Pakistan Peoples Party and was appointed as National Security Advisor in Bhutto's cabinet.
National security advisor and governor of Punjab
Tikka Khan was appointed and elevated as National Security Advisor in 1976 with a status of federal minister by Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. However, his tenure was short and terminated when the martial law was imposed by army chief General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq in 1977. General Zia ordered the military police to arrest both Bhutto and General Tikka Khan and placed them under house arrest. Bhutto was executed in 1979, after which General Tikka Khan emerged as one of the leaders of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), becoming its Secretary General, during a time when many party stalwarts abandoned it.
In 1980–88, Tikka Khan faced imprisonment numerous times for his political activities until President Zia-ul-Haq died in August 1988 in an aircraft explosion over Bahawalpur. Despite Tikka's political inclinations, many of Tikka's army protégés such as Sawar Khan, Iqbal Khan and Rahimuddin Khan were promoted to four-star rank and remained on deferential terms with him. Tikka Khan participated well in the general elections held in 1988 from Rawalpindi constituency. He was appointed as the Governor of Punjab by Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in December 1988. His governorship was terminated by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan after dismissing the government of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in August 1990, after which he retired from active politics.
Later life and death
Tikka Khan retired from politics and lived a quiet life in Rawalpindi, Punjab. Throughout the 1990s, he battled with his illness and hospitalised in CMH Rawalpindi for several years. He refused many television interviews on the course of 1971 episodes and died on 28 March 2002.
He was laid to rest with military honours in the Westridge cemetery in Rawalpindi. In his funeral attendance were the Chairman joint chiefs Aziz Khan, army chief, air chief, naval chief and other senior military and civil officials. Benazir Bhutto paid him a rich tribute in the television and directed a message to Tikka Khan's son, Colonel Khalid Khan, where Benazir Bhutto noted that: "Tikka Khan, who had spent many years campaigning with the General [Tikka Khan]", remembered him as a person who, "rose to the highest offices of this country due to his hard work and respect for the rule of law."
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| Martial Law Administrator of Zone A, (West Pakistan)
| Governor of West Pakistan
Sahabzada Yaqub Khan
| Martial Law Administrator of Zone B, (East Pakistan)
Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi
| Governor of East Pakistan
Abdul Motaleb Malik
Makhdoom Sajjad Hussain Qureshi
| Governor of Punjab
Mian Muhammad Azhar
Lieutenant General Sahabzada Yaqub Khan
| Commander of Eastern Command
7 March 1971 – 7 April 1971
Lieutenant General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi
Lt. Gen. Gul Hassan Khan
as Commander-in-Chief, Pakistan Army
| Chief of Army Staff
Gen. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq