April 2007 News

Benazir, not me, who talked of capturing Srinagar: Beg

12 April 2007
The Hindu
Nirupama Subramanian

Islamabad: After a long silence, the first return shot has been fired at Benazir Bhutto for the latest additions to her autobiography 'Daughter of the East.' In a 'rejoinder' published on Thursday, General Mirza Aslam Beg, former Pakistan Army chief, says it was Ms. Bhutto who wanted to know if he could capture Srinagar, and not he who offered to give it to her as a 'crown of victory and glory'. New version In a just released new version of the autobiography, Ms. Bhutto says that during her first term as Prime Minister, Gen. Aslam Beg had asked her to approve a new policy. This was much before 1996 when she claimed Gen. Pervez Musharraf made a similar offer to fly the Pakistan flag on the J&K Assembly in Srinagar. 'He said that if Islamabad went on 'offensive defensive', it could capture Srinagar.... General Beg told me, 'Prime Minister, you just give the order and your men will take Srinagar and you will wear the crown of victory and of glory.' I thought he had lost all sense of reality.' Writing in the Pakistan Observer on Thursday, Gen. Beg says that to 'put the record straight', in 1989, during a military exercise held in November-December 1989 called Zarb-e- Momin, the Army tested the new concept of 'offensive defence,' which was different from the Army's orders to remain on the defensive in Kashmir in case of an outbreak of war and maintain the Line of Control. 'This policy had resulted in loss of territory in the 1965 war, including Kargil. Both in 1965 and 1971 wars, Army launched unprepared offensives in the sensitive areas of Indian-held Kashmir, and failed miserably. I, therefore, suggested to the Prime Minister that the War Directive may be amended, and the mission may be changed, so that after the war, the Government of Pakistan finds itself in a better bargaining position.' It is not clear what Gen. Beg means by 'after the war', and if it implies he suggested to Ms. Bhutto that the Pakistan Army, newly confident after its Zarb-e- Momin, should be allowed to launch an offensive against India. That would confirm Ms. Bhutto's account. But Gen. Beg only goes on to say that after 'listening to the presentation, [Ms. Bhutto] remarked: 'Can you capture Srinagar?' I said 'Yes, if you place the resources at our disposal'. No answer She did not answer. I tried to look into her eyes to find out if she was really serious but she had lowered her gaze and offered no comments.' He also suggests that Ms. Bhutto's go-ahead to the ISI even though it comes under the Army to capture Kabul was without his knowledge. 'Perhaps her silence betrayed her feelings of guilt and shame she had suffered after defeat of her offensive against Jalalabad, which she had launched in March 1989, without consulting GHQ.' There has been no reaction thus far from Gen. Musharraf, who, according to the new chapter, is said to have asked Ms. Bhutto, during her second term as Prime Minister, for a green signal to march on Srinagar, which she refused to do.


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