Debacle: Musharraf's Time Bomb, Waiting to Explode
August 3: Five years have passed since Kargil but it continues
to be debated in Pakistan mainly because it led to the fall of
Nawaz Sharif and the rise of General Musharraf, changing the fate
of both on the same day, one going to jail and the other crowned
Kargil, nevertheless, established
a bitter fact that Pakistan Army will continue to exercise its
domination over the vulnerable civilians, both in political and
militarily domains irrespective of the losses in the process to
the country and its unfortunate 140 million people.
The five years since Kargil have
also established the fact that the truth will not come out until
the Army rules the roost. A Kargil Commission will never be set
up like the Hamoodur Rehman Commission, unless a genuinely elected
political government takes over.
The controversy, however, rages on.
In a fresh interview, exiled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told
an Indian magazine a judicial commission was inevitable to determine
who was responsible for the disaster.
Nawaz Sharif sounded quite aggressive
and threatening in his latest interview when he made it clear
that whenever he regains power, he would not spare those who staged
Earlier, ‘Battle Ready’,
a new book by American General Anthony Zinni, who worked closely
with former president Bill Clinton during the infamous Pakistan-India
stand off, revived the five years old controversy in Pakistan.
Despite claims and counter claims
both from the military and civilians, the situation is still blur
as General Musharraf claims that Nawaz had cleared the plan and
military could not be held responsible for the debacle.
In a series of political profiles
of leaders of the Nawaz government who were actively involved
in all Kargil decisions, this scribe tried to get to the bottom
but could only go so far as leaders who know would not talk and
those who talk don’t know.
Ch. Shujaat Hussain, the current
Prime Minister who was leading the ruling PML-Q when I interviewed
him, was the first political leader who had disclosed many inside
stories leading to the Kargil crises.
His disclosures had unleashed a storm
in the political and military circles. However, when this scribe
met Ch. Nisar Ali Khan who had accompanied Nawaz Sharif to meet
President Clinton on July 4, 1999, a different perspective of
the situation emerged.
Ishaq Dar who was the then finance
minister and directly pumping money for defence requirements,
gave another account of these events.
But one potential witness to Kargil,
Mushahid Hussain, otherwise considered to be a bold writer, had
flatly refused to talk over the issue after becoming a senator
on the ruling party ticket.
Despite my best efforts, I could
not interview the then Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz as he had
refused to come on record though he confirmed to me that he knew
much about Kargil. Likewise, General (Retd) Abdul Majeed Malik,
who also knew a lot also shied away from talking on the subject.
Information Minister Sheikh Rashid,
also an important member of the Nawaz cabinet had simply told
this scribe, without going into details of Kargil, that he endorsed
the views of Ch. Shujaat Hussain.
Shujaat Hussain was interviewed in
April 2003 and he was at best evasive and did neither support
Musharraf nor Nawaz Sharif. He rather narrated a tale of one such
meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Defence in which Kargil issue
Shujaat said a Brigadier was briefing
participants of the meeting including Sartaj Aziz, Shujaat, Nawaz
and General Musharraf who was then the COAS.
Shujaat claimed that at one stage
Musharraf observed that Nawaz was not following what the Brigadier
was trying to convey on Kargil. So Musharraf himself sprang from
his seat, took the stick from the Brigadier and started to explain.
According to Shujaat, when at one
stage of the briefing by General Musharraf, the dismal picture
of Kargil and its implications sank home, Nawaz Sharif almost
shouted at Musharraf by saying: ‘This means an open war
Nawaz genuinely complained to Musharraf
as to why was he not told earlier that this kind of military activity
on Kargil could lead to a war like situation with India, Shujaat
“Upon this, Musharraf produced
a pocket note book and started to give details of all those meetings
in which, he claimed, Nawaz was given briefings about Kargil.
But this further annoyed Nawaz. At this stage a cool and diplomatic
interior minister (Shujaat himself) proposed that what had happened
was past now. He proposed that it was better that a press release
should be issued after the meeting saying that both the military
and political leadership was on board on Kargil.
Shujaat said his proposal greatly annoyed Nawaz as he refused
to do so. “Nawaz was so annoyed with me for making the proposal
that when he left the meeting he did not even bother to look at
him or shake hands.”
When this scribe met Ch. Nisar Ali
Khan, he gave a different account of events leading to the fall
of Nawaz. Nisar had clearly said during the Kargil crisis that
Nawaz had decided to visit the US to protect the honor of the
military endangered in face of Indian threats.
Ch Nisar held important ministerial
portfolios in the governments of General Ziaul Haq and Mohammad
Khan Junejo and was also a leading figure in both the tenures
of Nawaz government from 1991 to 1993 and 1997 to 1999.
Nisar said, "Kargil was badly
conceived, badly planned and badly executed". He said the
timing was so bad that when the political leadership was told
about this misadventure, the PM could not reverse or stop it even
if he wished to because it would have had serious fallout, both
for the army and the government.
Nisar said Nawaz and his team were
told by military leadership only what was needed according to
their requirements and perception. The nation, he said, should
be told about the reaction of the then Naval Chief Admiral Fasih
Bukhari and Air Chief Pervez Mehdi when like civilian leaders
they came to know about Kargil for the first time.
Declining to discuss what these reactions
were, Nisar said let the nation ask that question from the former
naval and air chiefs and they should tell what their comments
were about the possibility of war with India.
Nisar said if Nawaz had been aware
of the Kargil adventure, he was not so foolish to invite the Indian
prime minister to Lahore.
About Nawaz’s mad rush to Washington,
Nisar said he received a call from Nawaz who asked him to get
ready to go to the US. Nisar opposed his visit saying: "Mian
sahib let those people face the music who had planned all these
things without taking politicians into confidence." But,
Nawaz replied: "No Nisar, I cannot see my army face humiliation
at the hands of India".
Nisar said Shahbaz Sharif is a witness
to his opposition to Nawaz dash to the US. He recalled: "ZA
Bhutto, with his political wisdom, saved 90,000 Pakistani POWs
but was later hanged by the military. The same happened with Nawaz
after 27 years. Nawaz went to US risking the negative fallout
but saved the military honor that was under serious danger because
of Indian threats". Nisar lamented that the same army rescued
by Nawaz sent the man to hell.
Ishaq Dar, who was the then Finance
Minister, said he knew too much about the troubling issues between
military and the civilian leadership of that time. Dar demanded
that a judicial commission should be set up where he would give
all the inside information and details that would shock the entire
said that the most important details pertain to briefing of General
Pervez Musharraf to Dar and Sartaj Aziz in the Military Operation
Room of the GHQ towards the end of May 1999 and the meetings of
the Defence Cabinet Committee (DCC) during May and June 1999 under
the chairmanship of PM Nawaz in which Majeed Malik, Raja Zafar
ul Haq and Mushahid Hussain also participated in addition to permanent
members of DCC.
But, Dar said before Nawaz dashed
to the US for the July 4 meeting with Clinton, two important meetings
were held to review the situation. Nawaz had gone to US only to
bail out the Pakistan Army. Dar said General Musharraf was very
keen to involve US for mediation between India and Pakistan.
Was Nawaz Sharif on board about Kargil
operations from the beginning? Dar categorically denied this by
saying "not at all".
Most of the Corps Commanders, Air
Force and Naval Chiefs were also not aware of the operation on
day one. PM Nawaz was in fact informed on May 17, he claimed.
However Ishaq Dar revealed another
interesting fact that supported the point of view of General Musharraf
that Nawaz Sharif was informed about Kargil, although he might
have not taken it seriously.
Dar revealed that many months before
the Kargil operation, a strategic briefing on different locations
including Kargil was held in Skardu. But, Dar hastened to add
that this causal briefing could in no way be termed as an approval
from Nawaz for the Kargil Operation.
He said Kargil was launched without
meeting the required formalities and a proper approval. The then
political leadership was approached for immediate rescue only
when operational problems started to surface at Kargil. When Musharraf
briefed Nawaz about troubling development, the first abrupt question
Nawaz asked from his army chief was: why he was not informed in
advance about the operation, Dar claimed.
Dar said Nawaz had gone to the US
not on his own but on the personal request and insistence of Musharraf
who saw Nawaz off at the Airport. Dar said Nawaz had sincerely
tried to save the dignity and honor of Pakistan Army and to protect
the Mujahideen on Kargil front lines for whom inadequate arrangements
were made by the Army.
But, Dar was not ready to speak more
on Kargil though he claimed that he knew much more. He said he
would tell everything to a judicial commission if formed on the
issue because he believes that such revelations would not be in
the national interest.
So, no one, neither the military
nor the political leadership, is ready to accept the responsibility
of this disaster that not only brought two neighboring countries
to the brink of war but also led to the dramatic fall of Nawaz
and rise of Musharraf.
The issue, however, is far from dead
and sooner than later, Kargil will blow into a real crisis for
the Pakistan Army.
writer is a senior journalist working for The News, Islamabad.