Divorced of ground realities that obtained at the time of the Kargil operation, in 1999, it is only natural that the ongoing narrative about its objectives and consequences lacks the expected objectivity. Not only are the actors then on stage not there any more, the ones now on stage have their peculiar, if not tainted, perspectives on that event. Obviously, the accounts about the Kargil operation and motivation behind it and the end-result now being aired tend to clash with those then available to the public. Yet there is the need that the people of Pakistan should know if the Kargil adventure was needed at all:
Was it planned in pursuance of national interest, and did its execution meet the required professional standards? Or, was it the brainchild of a clutch of ambitious Bonapartist generals who were out to hound out an elected prime minister they feared for his track record, or were they out to sabotage the moves towards normalisation of Pak-India relationship? We know that findings of quite a few commissions set up in the past were not made public. Maybe the commission on the Kargil operation now being demanded also falls in that category. But we do feel that there are lessons that are to be learnt in-camera from the botched Kargil mission - by the concerned stakeholders both in military and decision-making civilian set-up, if not by the general public. And that such a commission should be set up after the general election with a view to keeping it clean of suspicion that fielding the Kargil operation at this point in time is politically motivated.
Away back in late 1998 when the Kargil operation was conceived the public perception, partly reported by the media, was that initially only the army chief, general Pervez Musharraf and three 'Kashmiri' generals - CGS Lieutenant General Mohammad Aziz, 10 Corps Commander Lieutenant General Mahmud Ahmad and Northern Light Infantry chief Major General Javed Hassan - were involved. They seemed to have calculated that the operation to provide active support to Kashmiri freedom fighters, which was conceived during Benazir government in 1996 but was put off in view of negative international reaction, could not be delayed any longer. They thought that a clash in Kashmir would greatly help in internationalising the Kashmir issue. At the same time there was speculation that the Pakistan army had raised the Kargil ante in response to the reported Indian military build-up for a 'decisive' move in Kashmir. If by then Prime Minister Vajpayee who came to Lahore in February 1999 and his counterpart Nawaz Sharif with whom he signed the 'Lahore Declaration' were in know of the things, perhaps they were not. In fact, it was Indian army chief General V P Singh's tough statement on the Siachin Glacier in March 1999 that precipitated a high-level briefing at the GHQ where Nawaz Sharif was informed of the Kargil operation - but not in so many words. He was reportedly told that in response to Singh's threat Pakistan too has taken 'some measures'. What those measurers were, neither he asked, nor was he told. It was at the Formation Commanders Conference on May 17, 1999 that the prime minister learnt of the Kargil operation, and he was worried. Meanwhile, Indian forces amassed on international border and sent in MiGs on May 27 - two of which were shot down. On Kargil, too, things were not going on well.
The Indians were fast recovering their lost area, forcing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to hold a special cabinet meeting. It was the then Defence Secretary, Lieutenant General Iftikhar Ali Khan, the elder brother of leader of opposition Nisar Ali Khan, who made a bold comment that 'war can bring only two outcomes; either a full-fledged war with India or total humiliation'. From then on there was a rush of effort to seek peace with India, ending with the prime minister's intercession with the then US President, Bill Clinton, followed up with visit here of the then CENTCOM chief, General Zinni.
In his 'My Life', President Clinton says: Sharif's moves were perplexing because Indian Prime Minbister Atal Behari Vajpayee had travelled to Lahore, Pakistan, to promote bilateral talks aimed at resolving the Kashmir problem. By crossing the Line of Control Pakistan had wrecked the talks. I don't know whether Sharif had authorised the invasion to create a crisis he hoped would get America involved, or had simply allowed it in order to avoid confrontation with the powerful military. How authentic is the famous remark attributed to Nawaz Sharif that 'when are you giving us Kashmir' or the taped conversation between General Musharraf and Lieutenant General Aziz according to which the government is not fully aware of the Kargil operation - we don't know. All of it is for the proposed commission to look into. Those events are still clouded in mystery. For example, we don't even know the exact number of casualties Pakistan suffered in highly controversial Kargil operation. The proposed commission can perhaps remove mystery from math.
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