ISLAMABAD: A high-level inquiry committee of senior military officers, constituted by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999 to probe the Kargil episode, had recommended General Pervez Musharraf’s court martial. But he had preempted the move by toppling the Sharif government and “stealing” the report from the Prime Minister’s House in a bid to save his neck.
This startling disclosure was made in a 100-page ‘White Paper’ published by the PML-N way back in 2006, titled “Kargil adventurism: Who is responsible for another defeat”. The White Paper claimed that Musharraf decided to topple the Sharif government after getting hold of a clandestine report of the inquiry panel set up by the prime minister to probe the Kargil episode and fix responsibility for the loss of lives on the icy wasteland in a misconceived and uncalled for operation carried out by the Pakistan Army without even informing the elected government. The White Paper disputed Musharraf’s claim that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was taken into confidence before the Kargil operation was executed.
“The Kargil misadventure was Musharraf’s own brain child and Nawaz Sharif was never taken into confidence as being claimed by Pervez Musharraf,” asserted the White Paper. “In order to stop such events in future, Nawaz Sharif had constituted an inquiry committee of military officers which had recommended the court martial of Musharraf and the other officers who were responsible for the Kargil misadventure.
Besides other steps, Sharif wanted to ensure that in future the military did not take decisions without taking the elected government into confidence. As he was about to make public the report, Musharraf toppled his government and stole it from the PM House”, so said the White Paper which had been released by a senior PML-N leader, Siddiqul Farooq at a press conference in Karachi on August 5, 2006. “The Kargil operation was a clear and unquestionable diplomatic and military victory for India and another military debacle for Pakistan”, the White Paper stated.
The Kargil episode continues to haunt Musharraf almost 15 years after the crisis rocked South Asia, amidst allegations and counter allegations coming from him and his former military colleagues as to who was in fact responsible for orchestrating the misadventure that resulted in hundreds of deaths and ended up in a huge diplomatic embarrassment for Pakistan, forcing it to seek a face saving retreat from the Line of Control. In a latest development that has generated a fresh debate over Kargil, Lt Gen (retd) Shahid Aziz, a former chief of general staff, has stated in his book that the ‘Kargil misadventure’ was a four-man show the details of which were hidden from the rest of the senior military commanders.
According to him, initially the Kargil operation was known only to COAS Musharraf, Chief of General Staff Lt Gen Mohammad Aziz, Commander of the Force Command Northern Areas Lt Gen Javed Hassan and the Commander of the 10 Corps Lt Gen Mahmood Ahmad. The majority of corps commanders were kept in the dark, says Aziz. “Even the-then director general military operations Lt Gen Tauqir Zia came to know about it later,” says Shahid Aziz who at the time was serving as director general of the analysis wing of ISI.
Almost similar claims were made by Lt Gen Jamshed Gulzar Kayani, who was the Corps Commander of Rawalpindi at the time of the Kargil war. He had claimed in June 2008 that Nawaz Sharif was not informed about the Kargil operation by General Musharraf.
Gulzar told Geo Television in an interview that it was the Kargil issue that actually caused differences between Sharif and Musharraf, eventually leading to Sharif’s ouster. “After Sharif came to know of the Kargil operation, he immediately called top military officials and his close cabinet members to discuss the issue. None of them had favoured Kargil and blamed only one person”, Jamshed Gulzar had pointed towards Musharraf without naming him.
Therefore, some close aides of Nawaz Sharif say he is determined to constitute a high-level inquiry commission on Kargil, once he comes into power, to make accountable all those in the military who were responsible for the misadventure that resulted in the deaths of thousands of Pakistani soldiers. Sharif in on record of having said on June 3, 2008: “Musharraf should be court martialled since it has already been proved that he resorted to the Kargil misadventure without the government’s approval. Musharraf should also be tried for the deaths of almost 3000 jawans who were eliminated in the ill-conceived and uncalled-for war”.
According to Siddiqul Farooq, the findings of any commission to be formed on Kargil won’t be any different than those of the inquiry committee of senior military officers which was constituted by Nawaz Sharif and which had recommended his court martial. Asked about the authenticity of the PML-N’s claim that the inquiry report was stolen by Musharraf after staging his coup, Siddiqul Farooq said this fact was first made public by Mrs Kulsoom Nawaz Sharif on July 29, 2000 while talking to newsmen outside the Attock Fort after seeing her husband. He reminded that Nawaz Sharif has stated time and again since 2000 that it was necessary to constitute a high-powered commission on Kargil debacle that should submit its findings to the parliament within six months so that action could be taken against those responsible.
Though the Kargil conflict had brought the Kashmir dispute into international focus, which was one of the prime motives of Musharraf, as per his own claim, it had eroded its credibility to a great extent as the infiltration came just after a peace process between India and Pakistan was underway by Prime Ministers Vajpayee and Sharif.
It was in November 2010, almost 11 years after the Kargil war that the Pakistan Army which had been denying its role in the conflict, finally put the names of 453 soldiers and officers killed in the battle on its official website. The names of 453 Pakistani soldiers was posted in the “Shuhada’s Corner” (Martyrs Corner) of the website who were shown killed in Batalik-Kargil sector of the Jammu and Kashmir. The army also revealed the codename given to the operation to occupy strategic mountains and heights on the Indian side of the LoC “Operation Koh-e-Paima” or Mountain of Resolve.
But the exact losses suffered by Pakistan army in the Kargil war are difficult to assess. While the Pakistan Army conceded that 453 soldiers were killed, the US Department of State estimated close to 700 fatalities. According to Nawaz Sharif, there were over 4,000 fatalities, while the PML-N White Paper claimed that over 3,000 Mujahideens, officers and soldiers were killed.
According to the Indian estimates, Pakistan lost 1,042 soldiers in the Kargil war. Musharraf, in the Hindi version of his memoirs, titled “Agnipath”, differed from all these estimates and claimed that only 357 soldiers had lost their lives.