‘Musharraf Wanted To Take Over Srinagar’

3 May 2008

Washington DC: A new book on the Pakistan army shows a discrepancy between the recollections of Benazir Bhutto and Gen Pervez Musharraf on the conduct of Pakistan-backed military operations in Kashmir. The new book-Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army and the Wars Within-by Shuja Nawaz reproduces the author’s conversations at different times between the late Pakistan Peoples’ Party chairwoman and the former chief of the Pakistan army. Bhutto told the author that in her second term, Musharraf, then head of military operations at army headquarters, while presenting a war game on Kashmir, recommended a military incursion into the Indian-administrated Kashmir and the taking over of Srinagar. Bhutto, however, reminded him that Pakistan would not be able to sustain the gains and would be forced to withdraw. Musharraf’s recollection is different. He said, “I told her that the time window for the resolution of Kashmir dispute is short. Because, with (the) passage of time, the India-Pakistan equation, military equation and economic equation is going against us … she minded that a lot.” “I told her that with time, the differential is increasing and the window will close. Therefore, if at all, we have to do anything, we should be planning to do it in a short while. Otherwise we lose the opportunity … It was just that I had a more proactive view on what we should be doing in Kashmir and she did not like that. She held totally defensive: ‘let’s sideline the issue altogether. Don’t bother about it.’ …So she took offense to it. And I did reply again, I said, ‘I personally think that time is not on our side. Time is in the favour of India.’ There was no Kargil type of situation discussed … I said only that the Mujahideen were doing something over there. My view was if we are bringing about qualitative enhancement and quantitative is all in our hands, in the government’s hands, as far as Mujahideen are concerned. You can send them arms etc. whenever you like. Qualitatively, that is all that I said, but I didn’t give her … give any kind of a plan of action, military action.” Shuja implies that Bhutto may have failed to see the difference between a war game and an operational plan. Gen Jehangir Karamat told the author, “Kargil came up several times. The Dras-Kargil Road was an interdiction target for indirect artillery fire. During my tenure, Indians interdicted Neelam Valley Road, cutting off Azad Kashmir. We had a major planning conference to develop a response. We decided to construct a by-pass and continue interdiction on Dras-Kargil Road. This did not work and Indians continued. In the next conference we considered physical interdiction of the road but decided the consequences would create problems for locals and hamper covert operations in Kashmir. We decided to move heavy weapons forward and carry out interdiction with direct fire. This was enormously effective. The Indians got the message and backed (off) on Neelam Valley Road. In any case, we had decided to develop an alternative route for logistics into Azad Kashmir-this was completed.” Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s foreign minister at the time of Kargil, told the author that the Kargil operation was planned well before January 1999 and well before the Vajpayee visit and linked it to the 1994-96 Neelam Valley artillery attack by India. “I don’t think they realised the full implications of these plans.” He recalled a first briefing on 12th March and then 17th May, after the intrusion had become public. The 12th March briefing he said was “partial, because they never mentioned the army crossing the LoC. Only the Mujahideen were mentioned.” A 17th May briefing at ISI headquarters produced more questions than answers. Lt Gen. Ziauddin, whom Nawaz Sharif tried to appoint in place of Musharraf, told the author that Sharif was fully in the picture on Kargil from a certain point on. According to Zia, the Prime Minister had the authority to order a halt to the operation at any point if he had serious doubts. But he did not. “This is damning testimony from a man whom Sharif was later to appoint Musharraf’s replacement and who was then under threat of a court martial and under house arrest for almost two years on Musharraf’s orders,” Shuja writes. As for withdrawal from Kargil, the author writes that Musharraf could have taken a firmer position against the withdrawal but apparently did not. Uncharacteristically, if his account is to be believed, he allowed Sharif to make his decision to go to Washington and seek Clinton’s help in arranging a ceasefire and withdrawal of troops from the forward lines. On his part, Sharif had taken an indirect approach yet again with yet another army chief, while apparently harboring deep distrust about the Chief’s aims. Sharif told Clinton that he was in a ‘box’ and needed his help. “You have put me in a box. There’s no simple way out,” Clinton replied.-Daily Times