Via The Acorn comes this Nawaz Sharif interview about Kargil.

Insisting that he was kept in the dark over Pakistan Army’s Kargil aggression, former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharief has said the then Pakistan Army chief General Pervez Musharraf and two other top military commanders toppled his government in October, 1999 as they feared their court martial for planning and executing it.

[…] “Initially, when the scuffle had started, Musharraf said it was the Mujahideen that was fighting in Kashmir, I thought since Mujahideen keep fighting, therefore, it is not a new phenomenon,” Sharief said in an interview to India Today magazine in its latest edition.

He revealed, “Later, I got a call from Vajpayee saab, saying ‘Nawaz saab, ye kya ho raha hai (Mr Nawaz, what is happening)? Your army is attacking our army. They are fighting our army’. I said there was no Pakistan Army fighting against his army… I suppose I should have known about all this. But frankly, I hadn’t been briefed.”

[…]Sharief said he had wanted to settle the matter directly with Vajpayee but it was Musharraf who was keen that he approach US President Bill Clinton to intervene.

The two-time former prime minister said he had later contemplated removing Musharraf ‘straightaway’ but had avoided ‘this kind of action’.

“I felt the proper thing was to first appoint a commission and have a thorough investigation into the whole matter… While I was in that process, Musharraf acted on that and that is why he took the action against me,” Sharief said.

“Musharraf and those two people, (Lt Gen) Mehmood Ahmed (Commander of 10 Corp) and (Lt Gen Mohammad) Aziz (Chief of General Staff). These three general were the main culprits who toppled my government. They all feared a court martial if an inquiry was conducted,” he said.

Prime Minister Chaudhry Shujaat refused to consider a commission of inquiry on the Kargil issue and also refuted Nawaz Sharif’s allegations.

Prime Minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain on Sunday categorically rejected a PML-N demand for the formation of a judicial commission to investigate the Kargil episode, saying that such a step would amount to opening a Pandora’s Box.

[…]the prime minister said whatever had happened in the Kargil sector was the ‘collective responsibility’ of the Nawaz Sharif government.

He said that as army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf had kept the then prime minister fully informed about what was happening in Kargil, and any assertion to the contrary would be baseless.

He recalled that at a meeting Gen Musharraf had told Mr Sharif the dates, the days and even the time when he had informed the latter about the situation in Kargil. But when the meeting ended, Mr Sharif remarked that he had not been given details.

I think I have mentioned it before that Musharraf (and other planners of the Kargil war) should have been court-martialled. However, Nawaz Sharif can’t escape responsibility as Ayaz Amir points out.

The ill-fated Kargil operation – carried out for no rhyme or reason appealing to the rational mind – is Banquo’s ghost at General Musharraf’s table, a bitter reminder of a misadventure that resulted in hundreds of deaths and cost the nation dearly.

[…]Was Nawaz Sharif kept in the dark about the genesis of Kargil? Of all the questions thrown up by the Kargil crisis this is about the most useless. He was the prime minister and should have known. But if, as he maintains, the wool was pulled over his eyes, what did he do when he came into the picture? He should have asked some searching questions. He seems to have done nothing of the kind, not even at the June 13 meeting in Lahore. Kargil put national security to its greatest risk since the 1971 war with India. Truman sacked Gen McArthur for much less.

All the evidence suggests that Nawaz Sharif was briefed or cursorily informed about Kargil sometime in April, probably at the Ojhri Camp, halfway between ‘Pindi and Islamabad. He may not have been given all the details but then it was for him to find out. If he did not, he was at fault. If he did not understand, he was at fault again.

The real question about Kargil is not whether Nawaz Sharif knew or not. It is something else. What accounts for the army’s institutional capacity to dream up ventures lacking any geostrategic or political context? The 1965 war (which ended up by derailing Pakistan and paving the way for the eventual separation of East Pakistan) was one such venture. The army crackdown on the Awami League in East Pakistan in 1971 was another. Kargil makes up the third of this holy trinity.

Read the whole article. It makes a number of important points.

The Acorn has a number of posts on this topic which have provided me some easy links for this post.

One thing is certain: Nawaz Sharif’s mention of Kargil has brought about a discussion about Kargil in the Pakistani media. Here are some highlights:

  • An editorial in the Daily Times accepts part of Nawaz’s story.
  • Dawn has an editorial arguing for a judicial commission of inquiry into the Kargil affair.
  • An article in Dawn talks about Hassan Abbas’s book Pakistan’s drift into extremism: Allah, the army, and America’s war on terror and concludes that Nawaz Sharif was informed of the Kargil operation in March 1999, which was after the Lahore visit of Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee in February.
  • Khalid Hasan has some more information from Hassan Abbas’s book.
  • Dr Hasan-Askari Rizvi claims that Nawaz Sharif was first briefed on the Kargil plans in Dec 1998-Feb 1999. He also says that the Kargil operation was a major diplomatic setback to Pakistan.
  • Nasim Zehra, currently a fellow at Harvard, was a journalist in Pakistan and I think was involved in Imran Khan’s political party Tehrik-e-Insaf. She deconstructs Nawaz Sharif’s statements on Kargil but is, in my opinion, too lenient on the army leadership.

If you need a refresher on the Kargil fiasco, here’s the BBC timeline. However, it tries too hard to be neutral. Global Security.org has a short description of the conflict as well.

Most interesting are the materials related to the Kargil conference at the Center for Contemporary Conflict at the Naval Postgraduate School.

UPDATE: Here is an interview with Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain.

By Zack

Dad, gadget guy, bookworm, political animal, global nomad, cyclist, hiker, tennis player, photographer


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  2. Nawaz cannot escape the blame he was briefed and briefed again but foll that he is with limited fortsight he failed to ask the essentail question from the General rgar wgar would be the long term consequences of this military action that the general had planned. Nawaz gave the go ahead without even bothering a slightest bit about the result of such an action. How can he escape the blame.

  3. I think I have mentioned it before that Musharraf (and other planners of the Kargil war) should have been court-martialled.

    Well, I would settle for their removal from public life; it is probably too much to expect any such actions towards the Army in the current set up. Besides, it will just inflame passions with the Kashmir and jihadist card being played by the usual suspects. The blunt truth is that no military regime or even one with praetorian tendencies will tolerate such a trial of its senior officers. My puzzlement over Kargil is what exactly Mush and co expected to accomplish; simple internationalisation seems too much of a gamble as would US direct intervention be. In many ways they were also lucky; with the military leadership in India, caught napping thanks to their cosying up to the BJP and their uncritical acceptance of the latter’s peace efforts. It also dealt a serious blow to the supposed stability that the saffron bombniks were claiming would be imparted to Indo-Pak relations in the wake of the nuclear tests.

    Nawaz can definitely not escape the blame. Neither can the generals

    The interesting thing for me which I didn’t realise was the degree to which Nawaz was kept in the dark about key defence and security decisions. In the account of Reidel, in his meeting with Clinton, he had to learn from the latter that Pakistani army had armed missiles with nuclear warheads and moved them into position for launch against India. This information was given to him during his hurried Washington trip to save some face before a Pakistani withdrawal; it speaks of a serious weakness in the chain of command when the civilian head of the govt has to learn of such an important development from a foreign head of state. To some degree Nawaz has only himself to blame, since he didn’t do much to build confidence in the parliamentary process and interfered with military appointments to no good end. I wonder what you think of Karamat’s proposal for clearer institutionalisation of decision-making on such security issues, before his dismissal. I know Karamat had his own reasons for proposing this and they don’t have much to do with increasing civilian control or democratic accountability of such policy-making but the general line of his proposals comes close to some of what other writers like Amir have been saying.

  4. Conrad: I would settle for their removal from public life; it is probably too much to expect any such actions towards the Army in the current set up.

    I would have gladly settled for that as well.

    what exactly Mush and co expected to accomplish?

    I don’t think it was internationalization; rather it was a play, or more likely tit for tat, for Siachen. The only importance of those heights was for the Leh road.

    They did miscalculate badly, like, rather worse than 1965 actually.

    the degree to which Nawaz was kept in the dark about key defence and security decisions.

    Nothing new in Pakistani politics and military relationship. I recall Benazir Bhutto being completely kept away from the nuclear program when she became Prime Minister.

    I wonder what you think of Karamat’s proposal for clearer institutionalisation of decision-making on such security issues.

    The national security council could have been a good idea except that in Pakistan the only reason it has been proposed is to institutionalize military intervention in politics. Because of that, I am wary of such proposals.

  5. Concerning Pakistan

    In May 1999 Islamic militants from Pakistan (abetted by the ISI, it is widely believed) infilitrated Kargil and undertook guerrilla actions against the Indian-controlled portion of Jammu & Kashmir. The Kargil Incident was analogous to the Bay of Pigs (…

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