Thursday, Mar 30, 2023

Who's Telling The Truth?

Who's Telling The Truth?

Did Musharraf inform Nawaz Sharif about his plans to send the Army to occupy the Kargil heights? If not, why not? If so, when did he inform him? The definitive answer to this question is to be found in the archives of the R&AW

Did President Pervez Musharraf, who was the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) under Mr Nawaz Sharif when he was the Prime Minister before October 12,1999, inform Mr Sharif about his plans to send the Army to occupy the Kargil heights? If not, why not? If so, when did he inform him? What was the reaction of Mr Sharif? Did he concur with Musharraf's action or did he disapprove of his action? What is the truth?

These questions have assumed importance in the light of two interviews given by Lt.Gen.(retd) Jamshed Gulzar Kiani on June 2, 2008, to the Geo TV and the Dawn of Karachi. Jamshed Gulzar Kiani was a Major-General in the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) at the time of the Kargil conflict and the subsequent coup against Mr Sharif. The ISI was then headed by Lt.Gen.Ziauddin, a Kashmiri of Punjabi origin from the Engineer Corps. The differences between Musharraf and Nawaz Sharif initially developed shortly after the appointment of Musharraf by Nawaz Sharif as the COAS in October,1998.

These differences were due to Nawaz Sharif's over-ruling Musharraf's objections to the appointment of Ziauddin as the Director-General of the ISI. Ziauddin was a close confidante of Nawaz Sharif and kept him informed of all actions of Musharraf, who stopped inviting him to some of his meetings with the Corps Commanders.

Jamshed Gulzar Kiani ingratiated himself with Musharraf by keeping him informed of the activities of Ziauddin. A small coterie of Army officers headed by Lt.Gen.Mohammad Aziz, the then Chief of the General Staff (CGS), staged a coup when Musharraf was returning to Karachi from Colombo on October 12,1999, and had Nawaz Sharif arrested because he dismissed Musharraf and appointed Ziauddin as the COAS. They prevented Ziauddin from entering the office of the COAS. He was arrested subsequently.

A question often debated in senior circles of the Pakistan Army is whether this coterie would have behaved in this manner if Nawaz Sharif had appointed a Punjabi Lt.Gen.from a fighting formation instead of an engineer as the COAS. Those, who held this view, used to argue that the objection of this coterie was not to the dismissal of Musharraf, a Mohajir, who was disliked by many of the Punjabi officers, but to his appointment of Ziauddin as the COAS. It is difficult to know the truth.

A month after taking over power as the Chief Executive, Musharraf promoted Jamshed Gulzar Kiani as a Lt.Gen and appointed him a Corps Commander. The two were very close to each other. Musharraf greatly appreciated his action before October 12,1999 in keeping him informed of the activities of Ziauddin and his links with Nawaz Sharif.

When Jamshed Gulzar Kiani reached the age of superannuation in 2003, Musharraf rewarded his loyalty by appointing him as the Chairman of the Federal Public Services Commission, which post had a fixed tenure of five years under the law. Serious differences developed between the two when Kiani as the Chairman of the Commission did not do the bidding of Musharraf and Mr Shaukat Aziz, the former Prime Minister,in respect of some appointments and postings of officers. Musharraf asked him to resign. He declined. Musharraf had a bill passed by the National Assembly in September 2006 reducing the tenure from five to three years. He was replaced at the end of three years.

A bitter Jamshed Gulzar Kiani, who felt humiliated by the treatment meted out to him by Musharraf despite his loyalty to him when he was Maj.Gen. and Lt.Gen, joined the group of anti-Musharraf officers such as Gen.Mirza Aslam Beg, former COAS who succeeded Zia-ul-Haq, after he died in a plane crash, Lt.Gen.Hamid Gul, former DG of the ISI etc and has been keeping on a campaign against Musharraf.

In his interview to the Geo TV, he made various allegations against Musharraf regarding the Kargil episode, Musharraf's post-9/11 co-operation with the US in the so-called war against terrorism and the commando raid into the Lal Masjid of Islamabad in July last year. He stated on follows on the Kargil episode: According to his information, Nawaz Sharif did not know anything about the Kargil episode. He was never thoroughly briefed on the same. He (Kiani) supported the holding of a probe into the Kargil fiasco. He had briefed Nawaz Sharif and told him that it was a very sensitive issue and he could not unveil all the details to him. In a meeting of May 17, 1999, Nawaz gave a green signal to the operation. He assured conditional support to General Musharraf that the Government would back the operation when he successfully moved forward. If unfortunately the same failed, he would not be in a position to support him (Musharraf).

In his interview to the Dawn on June 2, 2008,, Kiani said: Nawaz Sharif, the majority of corps commanders and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) were kept in the dark about the Kargil operation in 1999.Although Nawaz was briefed on the Kargil issue, it was fairly late and the conflict had started by then. "It was not a comprehensive briefing that the chief executive should have been given."

Talking to the media on June 3,2008, Nawaz Sharif demanded the trial of Musharraf on treason charges for his illegal Nov 3, 2007, steps in imposing a State of Emergency, the Lal Masjid carnage and keeping the nation, military officials and the then political leadership in the dark on the Kargil issue. Nawaz termed Musharraf’s account on the Kargil issue in his book, In the Line of Fire, a pack of lies and said the interview of Lt-Gen (retd) Jamshed Gulzar Kiani to Geo TV upheld his stance that he was not informed about the Kargil operation.

Nawaz was being clever. Kiani did not tell either Geo TV or the Dawn that Nawaz was not informed. He only said that Nawaz was informed later and that too not in a comprehensive manner. At the same time, he added that Nawaz approved the already on-going operation provided it would be successful.

Who is telling the truth--Musharraf in his book in which he claimed that Nawaz was on board or Kiani, who claims that Nawaz was informed in passing after the Pakistan Army had moved into the Kargil heights and that he had not objected to it provided it would succeed or Nawaz, who claims that he like many Corps Commanders was not informed at all?

The definitive answer to this question is to be found in the archives of the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW). In the last week of May, 1999, Musharraf had been to Beijing. He was in daily telephonic contact with Lt.Gen.Mohammad Aziz, the CGS, in Rawalpindi from his hotel room in Beijing. All these conversations were intercepted by the R&AW. The government of Atal Behari Vajpayee decided to release to the media the transcripts of two of these tapes for three reasons. 

Firstly, the tapes showed that it was the Pakistani Army which had occupied the Kargil heights violating the Line of Control (LOC) and not the Kashmiri Mujahideen as claimed by Musharraf. Second, it was the Pakistan Army which had shot down an Indian Air Force plane and asked the Hizbul Mujahideen to claim the responsibility for it. Third, the tapes showed that Musharraf had launched his operation without the knowledge of Nawaz, many of his Corps Commanders, the ISI, the chiefs of the Air Force and Navy and his Foreign Office. He got nervous after the IAF went into action and there were reports of the Indian naval ships moving from the East to the West coast.

Worried over the possibility of the conflict spreading outside Kashmir, Musharraf authorised Lt.Gen.Aziz from Beijing to brief other officers about the operation at an inter-ministerial meeting chaired by Nawaz on May 29,1999. At this meeting, as reported by Aziz to Musharraf, there were objections to Musharraf's keeping others in the dark. According to the account of the meeting as given by Aziz to Musharraf in Beijing over telephone, Nawaz defended Musharraf's action in not informing others as due to the demands of operational secrecy. Nawaz claimed that he himself and other Corps Commanders were informed only a week earlier. He made it appear that Musharraf's action was understandable.

A careful examination of the tapes as released by the Vajpayee Government would indicate the following:

  • Musharraf launched the operation without taking the clearance of Nawaz and without the knowledge of most of the senior officers.

  • When the Indian Army hit back and the IAF went into action, he lost his nerve and informed firstly Nawaz and then other senior officers and the Foreign Office.

  • Instead of rebuking Musharraf for launching the operation without his clearance and asking him to stop it, Nawaz went along with it hoping that the operation would succeed. When it did not, he flew to the US and sought the US assistance in bringing the fighting to a halt.

It is clear that neither Musharraf nor Nawaz nor Kiani is telling the whole truth. Each is telling only a part of the truth which, they think, would serve their purpose.

On June 14,1999, I had done a detailed analysis of the tapes as released to the media by Shri Jaswant Singh, the then Foreign Minister, and written an article titled Pak Army Chief Caught Yapping, relevant extracts from which are appended below


(Extract from my article of June 14,1999)

At what stage did Mr Sharif become aware of the Pakistani Army's proxy invasion plans? The CGS, while reporting on May 29 to the COAS on a meeting held by Mr  Sharif says: "He said I (Sharif) came to know seven days back, when Corps Commanders were told. The entire reason for the success of this operation was this total secrecy. Our experience was that our earlier efforts failed because of lack of secrecy. So, the top priority is to accord confidentiality, to ensure success. We should respect this and the advantage we have from this would give us a handle."

There are two ways of interpreting this. First, as claimed by Mr George Fernandes, our Defence Minister, the Army secretly planned and started the execution of this operation and informed Mr Sharif thereafter.

The second interpretation is that at the inter-departmental meeting convened by Mr Sharif, the Foreign Office representative expressed their unhappiness over the Army not keeping them in the picture since they had to handle the diplomatic fall-out.

Mr Sharif tried to soothe their ruffled feathers by claiming that he himself was informed only seven days earlier in the interest of operational secrecy. This does not necessarily mean that Mr  Sharif was not in the picture from the very beginning.

While the Pakistani Press and public are expressing their solidarity with their Army, one could discern in the comments of some independent analysts gnawing fears that Gen. Musharraf is becoming over-assertive at the expense of the credibility of the elected political leadership and that this operation could ultimately boomerang on Pakistan.

Thus, the "News" said in an article on May 29: "It is undeniable that armed men have crossed the Line in large numbers, if only because they themselves have admitted their presence and given Press statements by satellite telephone. They were not stopped by Pakistan Army patrols."

Mr Azhar Abbas said in an article in the May issue of the "Herald", the monthly journal of the "Dawn" group:" The assumption here (in Pakistan) is that India cannot respond to this kind of (covert) warfare with a conventional attack on Pakistan....

"The Army appears convinced of the wisdom of keeping India bleeding in Kashmir and in the presence of an effective deterrent (in the form of nuclear weapons in the hands of Pakistan), the temptation to do so would be even greater.....

"Several retired Army officers believe that the new Army Chief is far more assertive than his predecessor (Gen. Jehangir Karamat) and, in the event of the Nawaz Government taking issue with the new doctrine, is unlikely to bow out as easily as Karamat. This points to troubled civil-military relations in the future...."

The article concludes: " Skeptics are already warning that in the guise of changing threat perceptions and bailing out the (internal) system, the Army may only be searching for a new power-sharing formula after the dissolution of the infamous Troika. If the Army's new doctrine is, indeed, little more than the quest for a new power-sharing arrangement, it is time for the Nawaz Government to disillusion the Army....If the Government fails to do that, in the words of Dr. Eqbal Ahmad (a highly-respected Pakistani analyst), this change of threat perception can cost us, in the long run, our entire future."

The article was analysing not only Gen. Musharraf's perception of India, but also his vigorous justification of the Army agreeing to take over purely civilian responsibilities such as running the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA). Mr Sharif asked the Army to run the WAPDA to end corruption and to improve its efficiency.

After taking over, Gen. Musharraf, to the discomfiture of Mr Sharif, is reported to have issued orders that the Army would not only be responsible for the day-to-day running, but would also conduct all future negotiations with the independent power producers, thereby denying any role in this matter to the political leadership and civilian bureaucrats.