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Kargil and Nawaz

Kargil and Nawaz

Author: Editorial
Publication: Dawn, Karachi
Date: June 14, 2000

COMING precisely one year after the Kargil operation when he himself was prime minister, Mr Nawaz Sharif's statement in Attock on Monday must cause consternation at home and arouse interest abroad. The points he has raised are important, for they have a bearing on a crucial politico-military issue that brought Pakistan and India to the brink of a full-fledged war. Even though Kargil served to rivet the world's attention on the Kashmir issue, its consequences, nevertheless, have been disastrous, as results of all failed military adventures always are, for the post-Kargil developments not only cost Mr Nawaz Sharif his prime ministership, the country itself has suffered in terms of diplomatic discomfiture and a derailment of the democratic process. The fact that the country is today under a non-constitutional, non-democratic dispensation and the former prime minister in appeal against a life sentence owes a lot to what happened on the heights of Kargil about this time last year.

The gist of the deposed prime minister's statement seems to constitute an indictment of the army for its alleged mishandling of the Kargil operation. The statement acquits the naval and air chiefs of any culpability by accusing the army of keeping the other two services in the dark. Not only that: the statement seems well-crafted to zero in on the person of Gen Pervez Musharraf by alleging that the "ill-planned and ill-conceived operation" was kept secret not only from the prime minister but also from the corps commanders. He had, Mr Sharif claimed, "irrefutable evidence" that the prime minister was not aware of the operation. The statement claims that Pakistan suffered heavy casualties - a highly controversial point, since the international media and India's own sources admitted it was the Indian army that had received the beating - and that talks with President Clinton were started "in consultation" with the Chief of the Army Staff. It was the general's "desire," he said, that "Pakistan should involve the USA in the issue." More dramatic, and emphatic, was Mr Sharif's disavowal of any involvement with the Kargil operation, for he called as "shameful" and "a sheer lie" the present government's claim that the prime minister was fully aware of the Kargil operation.

Repudiating the former prime minister's claims, the government has claimed that Mr Sharif was responsible "for all policies and political decisions taken" and that he had participated in several meetings held in connection with the Kargil issue. While the spokesman for the Inter Services Public Relations called Mr Sharif's statement "shameful," the government spokesman said it was the prime minister's decision to visit Washington and "seek protection" from President Clinton. He had also, said the spokesman, paid tributes to the martyrs and heroes of the Kargil operation and given them awards.

While one must await history's judgment on precisely who was responsible for what happened on the Himalayan heights in the summer of 1999, it looks most extraordinary that a prime minister claiming "a heavy mandate" should be unaware of what was going on in the realm of foreign and military affairs. While he was prime minister, Mr Sharif had claimed several times that he was very much in the picture, and that no decisions about war and peace could be taken without his consent. If the prime minister really did not know what the khaki was up to along the Line of Control, then it is a moot question whether Mr Sharif deserved the office of the country's chief executive. Mr Sharif did indeed go to Washington for talks with President Clinton and committed himself at the White House to a withdrawal by the Mujahideen from Kargil. But now he said he had gone there because this was the COAS's "desire." How could a prime minister be guided in matters of such import by a general's "desire" even if that general was army chief? What were his foreign minister and the mandarins of the foreign office for? More important, what was he himself for if he did not exercise control over the nation's defence and foreign policies and take decisions about war and peace?

We could not agree more with the former prime minister when he says that a commission be set up to investigate the Kargil episode to let the nation know the facts that even after one year remain confined to the realm of secrecy. This nation has the right to know whose brainchild the Kargil operation was, who were the military and political personalities involved or not involved in the operation, and who should be held responsible at the bar of history for starting a military operation that ended without any tactical, strategic or diplomatic advantage to Pakistan.

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