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A besieged Indian Army Position at Kargil

Ex-ISI Chief Accuses Musharraf's Team of Major Slips in Kargil

Special SAT Report

ISLAMABAD, August 30: A former ISI Chief Lt Gen (Retd) Javed Nasir has held General Musharraf's team responsible for major slips in the disastrous Kargil misadventure and has demanded that an inquiry commission of senior retired army officers be formed to determine what mistakes were made.

“Major slips in the application of methodology and the evolution, implementation and execution of the operational instructions were made,” Gen. Nasir said in a newspaper article but he regretted that unlike the Indian side, instead of sacking, some of those responsible had even been promoted.

The former ISI Chief stated that it was correct that Gen. Musharraf had given five or six detailed briefings to Nawaz Sharif but he cast doubt on the timings of these briefings. “In which month Kargil was occupied and when was the first briefing given by Gen Musharraf to Nawaz Sharif has perhaps been deliberately omitted. This is the most cardinal issue of Kargil which has not been cleared by anyone so far,” he wrote.

Following is the complete text of the article published in The Nation of Lahore, Pakistan:

“Statements by leaders and a large numbers of articles which have appeared about Kargil in the Pakistani newspapers during the last few months make it necessary to correct the resultant distorted version conveyed to the Pakistani nation.

Kargil was very much part of the Azad Kashmir and under the control of Pakistani troops up to 1972. Because of permafrost high altitude features mostly exceeding 17,000 and some even 20,000 feet ASL, logistic dumping in the area used to be carried out for scouts from May — August who used to be moved in in May and withdrawn in December each year because the position was never threatened by the Indians. Because of the humiliating surrender in East Pakistan on 17 Dec 1971, the troops even on the western front and Kashmir were highly demoralized. The Indians have always been deceitful and cunning while dealing with Pakistan.

The Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was the grand victorious leader and knew that whatever she would dictate at Simla would have to be accepted by Bhutto, therefore she took the Indian Army Chief in confidence sharing with him that she would include the following term about Kashmir in the Simla agreement. That the areas captured across CFL (ceasefire line) in Kashmir would neither be vacated nor given back, instead the present line held will be termed as LoC but areas captured across the recognized international borders would be given back by both sides on the western front.

The Indian Army Chief therefore moved his troops to occupy the vacant snow line features in Kargil. Pakistan Army Chief Gen Tikka Khan did not even have a clue of what Bhutto was going to sign at Simla. He believed that once ceasefire was agreed between Indian and Pakistani Governments all the areas under adverse occupation across the CFL would be vacated and given back to each other as was done in l965.
Bhutto on the contrary wanted to put the army in such a humiliating and disgraceful position that no Chief in future would ever dare to remove the politically elected government.

After the occupation of Kargil, the Indian army opened the road along Shyok river to the mouth of Siachen and Ladakh which previously was dominated and overlooked by the Kargil heights which always had been under occupation of Pakistani scouts.

Beyond this very area the CFL. toward Siachen had been left unmarked in 1973 because of inaccessibility. The Indians neither ever claimed Siachen nor challenged Pakistan’s control over it. All the positions in Siachen being permafrost areas. Pakistan army started holding the lower features very thinly from May to November after the loss of Kargil in 1972, pulling the troops back in early December each year. Having developed the road to the mouth of Siachen glacier and Ladakh, the Indians started experimenting with adventure thinking teams in early 80s and based on their recommendations occupied the Siachen heights in April ‘84 before the Pakistani troops were to move in.

Gen Aslam Beg who could have easily occupied the seat vacated by Gen Ziaul Haq’s accidental death, because of no resistance from any quarter, took the army’s depleted image to an unimaginable height by bringing in democracy. He was the first army Chief with outstanding dual qualities of professional supremacy and field dynamics and the only one who as a student leader was a devout worker for Pakistan Movement.

He was not only my most favorite Chief Instructor and colleague but also my friend. He prepared the plans to play back Siachen on the Indians in Kargil from where the Indians like the Pakistan scouts used to pull back by end November each year and re-occupy in mid-May next year. Gen Beg had the best team at GHQ Pakistan will ever have.

Gen Shamim Alam was the CGS & Gen Jahangir Karamat was the DGMO, both of whom rose to four star ranks.
This excellent team had correctly appreciated that the occupation of vacant Kafir Pahar, Damgul, Tortuk Challunka in Kargil sector which completely overlooked and dominated the road running on the bank of Shyok river to Siachen would force the Indians to vacate Siachen failing which the Indian troops in the area with their logistics completely consumed and exhausted would be left with no option but to withdraw or surrender, unless they resorted to the most vulnerable heli-lifted supplies which too would have been limited.

The plan was presented to President Mr. Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Prime Minister Benazir in 1989. The response of the President was typically bureaucratic non-committal, but Benazir very curtly disapproved the plan. I met Gen S.R Kallue (R) the DGI, who was my best friend, who disclosed to me that during the pre–GHQ briefing he had advised Benazir that because of India’s undisputed nuclear, qualitative and quantitative overwhelming superiority and the freedom struggle by Kashmiris being in a very preliminary stage, the time was not ripe to go for such an operation for to retaliate it the Indian army will be forced to resort to major escalation, including war, which Pakistan, with its prevalent economic state and relative inferiority of strength, would not be able to endure.

I then met Gen. Beg to console him since he was highly disappointed and disheartened by Benazir’s curt rejection which according to him strongly reflected the sense of revenge about his father’s hanging by a military dictator, rather than an assessment of the prevalent situation whereby India had committed the blunder of getting three of its divisions committed in Sri Lanka and as such would not be in a position to go to war with Pakistan.

By December 1998 the power balance in the subcontinent had undergone a major change by the certification made by the pro-Indian western media that Pakistan’s three nuclear explosions in May 1998 had proved that its nuclear technology was far superior to the Indian technology.

Mujahideen’s operations in Kashmir, particularly their too frequently successful and daringly bold suicidal missions and a too frequent turnover which was making all ranks serving in Kashmir due for the next tenure within 1½ year after the completion of the running tenure, had completely sunk Indian troops morale in Kashmir.

This had forced the Indian Chief to thin the fighting strength even from armored regiments, air defence and artillery units of the defensive as well as strike formations from the main land, thus inducting major strategic and tactical imbalances rendering the formations inoperative for all type of operations on the main land should a war break out.

When Gen. Musharraf was appointed the Chief, his dynamically decision making personality was instantly reflected when within the first hour of his having taken over he issued orders for the postings of six Lieutenant Generals of his choice which included both the CGS and Chaklala Corps Commander. His choice CGS, as a brigadier, had served in FCNA as a Brigade Commander and Chief of Staff in the Chaklala Corps.

He proposed to the Chief a number of times to go ahead with the plan of occupation of Kargil. The Chief had himself while serving as DGMO minutely gone through the 1989 script of the plan which had not been approved by Benazir. From his excellent experience as instructor in the War Wing at the National Defence College he knew how to carry out the most critical analysis.

He correctly evaluated that in the event of Pakistan Army occupying Kargil as a playback on Indians what they did to Pakistan in Siachen in 1984, the Indian Army would neither be in a position to undertake hot pursuit operations nor in a position to fight even a defensive battle should the conflict be enlarged and carried over to the international borders.

After a brilliant analysis, Gen Musharraf as the Chief perhaps gave the green signal. The responsibility beyond this point was that of his team comprising the CGS, Corps Commander, DGMO, Commander FCNA. Whether correct methodology was followed to get the government approval, and the operational instruction evolved, highlighted the most salient point that the occupation of the vacant Kargil feature would not involve even the firing of a single bullet but the measures to be taken for denial thereafter of the vital tactical features would be of utmost importance.

The question is whether these were identified along with the period for which the Indians were to be denied access to these features under all circumstances – which entailed strengthening through sufficient strength and defensive measures, logistical buildup and maximum possible fire power to beat back Indian attempts to capture the features to open the road to Siachen.

This was to be done irrespective of the fact whether troops occupying Kargil positions were to be second line forces or even Mujahideen. Pakistan Army instead as a cover plan gave the credit to Mujahideen for the occupation of these positions. Somehow it skipped the vital fact that Pakistan Army was to come in by all means to thwart Indian attempts to recapture these positions. Prior approval by the PM was a must for total support as this operation would instantly become an international issue and might lead to a war between India and Pakistan if India failed to take back Kargil.

I learnt about the occupation of Kargil by Pakistani troops for the first time at the end of March ‘99 in Karachi from a civilian whose brother was an officer in NLI. When I met PM Nawaz Sharif, in connection with Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee as the Chairman ETPB, in the first week of April ‘99 when I asked him about Kargil, he had no idea. In May I met the Air Chief who told me that he and the Naval Chief learnt about the Kargil operation for the first time in April ‘99 when a presentation was made to the PM by Army Chief Gen Musharraf.

Caretaker PM Shujaat, who has been repeatedly quoted in the press as saying that Gen Musharraf had given five or six detailed briefings to Nawaz Sharif is absolutely correct, but in which month Kargil was occupied and when was the first briefing given by Gen Musharraf to Nawaz Sharif has perhaps been deliberately omitted.

This is the most cardinal issue of Kargil which has not been cleared by anyone so far.

When the Kargil operation came in the open in May ‘99 I requested Nawaz Sharif to recommend to the Army Chief to make me the in charge of logistics build-up in the Kargil area for which he should place my services at the Army Chief’s disposal for one or two months. It is most unfortunate that Nawaz Sharif had some self-oriented advisors who were best in rendering most unprofessional advice. The PM did not convey this to Gen Musharraf and thereafter avoided me.

I therefore called on Gen Musharraf who was not only one of my instructors in the War Wing of NDC whom I had always rated as one of the best, but we also had the best of relations with each other and had been meeting off and on after he was made the Chief. I offered him my services for the logistics buildup in Kargil but he thanked me very much and gave full assurance that the logistics buildup though difficult was already going on very efficiently.

After The first two attacks on Kafir Pahar by the Indian troops who were beaten back with very heavy casualties on the Indian side, I met him again and informed him that I was going to include a statement from his side in my article to the effect that while addressing the Army troops in a formation, Gen Musharraf had stated that in case India committed the blunder of undertaking any hot pursuit operations in Kashmir, Pakistan would have the option to strike at the place of its choosing across the international border where Indians holding defensive and strike formations suffer from strategic and tactical imbalances and were not in a position to fight even a defensive battle. This would prevent the initiation of total war between the two sides, and as such his DG ISPR should not comment on it. I gave this in my article which appeared in the newspapers in first week of July `99.

After the NLI troops were pulled back from Kargil and the Indian Army reoccupied the positions, the Indian Government held a court of inquiry which was published in the Indian papers. Our press also reproduced the same whereupon I met Nawaz Sharif and suggested to him to immediately order an inquiry but his advisory group had repeatedly made him commit such major blunders which had spoiled his relations with Gen Musharraf to an irretrievable depth of the dungeon of misunderstandings.

Learning about these from the third parties, I tried my best to meet Nawaz Sharif to suggest to him to remove and clear those misunderstandings between him and Musharraf but he kept avoiding me. Much later he did call me thrice during Oct 1999 but I could not meet him because of my wife who was seriously ill and left this world for eternal heavens on 14 October 1999. By then it had become too late.

Gen Musharraf had given the green light to his team after a brilliant analysis carried out personally by him but his team faulted in the correct application of the methodology and thus in achieving the most vital core objective on the success of which the Indian reaction was to be based which was the opening of LoC to Siachen which was possible only if the Indians succeeded in recapturing Kafir Pahar features which completely dominated the road running along Shyok river.

Had Pakistan retained this feature till end July, the Indian troops in Siachen would have been starved because of the non-availability of any Kerosene oil, a must to melt the ice to make even drinking water. Denial of this position till end July would have forced the Indian troops in Siachen either to abandon or to surrender.

Therefore questions arise. Was the significance of this fact highlighted in the operational instructions and was the Kafir Pahar position allocated sufficient troops and the logistics dumping to last till end August which was most difficult because it was approximately 18 kms from the LoC? Were sufficient guns and ammunition concentrated in range to beat back Indian attacks?

No features other than the ones overlooking the LoC to Siachen merited the same attention as the Kafir Pahar. Were any serving or retired officers from Infantry having served in the area and risen subsequently to the Gen’s rank like Maj. Gen. Bokhari -- who like the CGS had commanded a Brigade in FCNA, been COS of Chaklala Corps and DMO as well, and to beat all had been one of the top three Infantry Generals whom I would rate the best in the understanding and applications of operational strategy (the other two being Maj Gen Anwar and Lt Gen Usmani).

The success or failure of the entire operation depended upon the retention of these vital features -- as such their advice would have been most invaluable. Likewise Gen Rahat Latif (FF) had served in the Kargil area as a Capt in scouts when it used to be part of the liberated Azad Kashmir.

His briefing on the significance of Kafir Pahar would have been also invaluable. Based on the findings of the inquiry reports the Indian Government has sacked apart from Brigs, Lt Cols and Majors, a Maj Gen (GOC 3 Infantry Div facing FCNA who had been approved for the next rank) because of false reporting and certain command failures.

On the contrary, on the Pakistan side from the information and details available so far many major slips appear to have been made not by Gen Musharraf but by his team in the application of methodology and the evolution, implementation and execution of the operational instructions but, unlike the Indian side, instead of sacking, some have already been promoted.

What actually happened and who committed the blunder in his team? Gen Musharraf must constitute an inquiry commission comprising all retired officers to be headed by either Gen Aslam Beg or Gen Shamim Alam including Gen Bukhari (FF), Gen Anwar (AK), Gen Usmani (FF) and the author so that the entire nation comes to know the true facts and Pakistan does not miss a similar historical and golden opportunity in the manner we did at Kargil.”

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