ISLAMABAD: Former federal minister Lt-Gen (retd) Abdul Majeed Malik, who is an eyewitness to major happenings that took place during the tenure of the second Nawaz Sharif government, says the Kargil operation of Pervez Musharraf was badly conceived, faultily executed and totally unneeded.
“Musharraf’s assertion that the then government turned a won war into a political defeat is erroneous and misplaced. Rather it saved the army and Pakistan from further embarrassment, and this was a major achievement,” Majeed Malik, who was a key minister in the Nawaz Sharif cabinet, told The News. The only element of pride in the Kargil war, he said, was that the junior officers and soldiers played a heroic role, which has no parallel in the world history. The whole nation lauds their bravery and courage.
Majeed Malik said that the casualties Pakistan suffered in the otherwise limited Kargil battle were perhaps even more than those in the full-fledged 1971 war with India.
He said the only objective of undertaking this venture was to interdict Indian supplies from their usual route. These hills, he said, are always unoccupied during winters, and when the Pakistan army captured it, it was untenanted as India had vacated it due to the chilly season. When Pakistani forces took the area, there was no resistance as there were no Indian forces present in that region, he said adding that no combat thus took place.
Even India, Majeed Malik said, came to know about occupation of the Kargil hills by Pakistani forces a few months later only when a shepherd went there. He said the way junior officers and soldiers transported the guns and other material to Kargil was unprecedented. Pakistan was not in a position for the logistics buildup.
Majeed Malik said the civilian government was formally briefed about the Kargil operation for the first time on May 17, 1999. Only then it came to know about the adventure.
He said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, he and some other federal ministers including Sartaj Aziz and Raja Zafarul Haq, Defence Secretary Lt-Gen (retd) Iftikhar Ali Khan, Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmed Khan and Additional Secretary, Foreign Affairs, Tariq Fatemi were present in the meeting that was given the briefing by the army generals including Pervez Musharraf, Aziz Khan, Mehmood, Tauqir Zia and Ziauddin about the Kargil operation. “It is a matter of record that I seriously objected to the venture and argued that it was absolutely wrong and would not benefit Pakistan in any way as it would not be possible for us to stay there because India has much better access to the area,” Majeed Malik recalled.
He said that India quickly mobilized its army and air force and inflicted heavy damage to Pakistan. Had the war continued for another couple of months, Pakistan would have faced more damages. In this tough situation when Pakistan was in no position to fight India in that area, Nawaz Sharif government initiated the diplomatic process by involving the then US President Bill Clinton and got Pakistan out of the difficult scenario, Majeed Malik said.
He added that when this process was started, it had become impossible for Pakistani troops to stay in the Kargil area. When the prime minister launched the efforts to end armed hostilities and after these succeeded in July that year, he kept saying that his government has taken on its shoulders the burden of blunders committed by others. He obviously alluded to Pervez Musharraf, who, some two months later, overthrew his government and imposed martial law, plunging the country into another dark era.