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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 23, May 30, 2015

Gen Musharraf’s Outbursts

Saturday 30 May 2015, by Kuldip Nayar

I have not been able to make out why General Pervez Musharraf, who is under house arrest on charge of treason, has made a public speech on the Kargil war which I watched on a television channel. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif must be under pressure from the Army to allow Musharraf to propagate an account which is not factually correct.

Surely, Nawaz Sharif remembers how he was removed through a coup staged by General Musharraf. Yet, the Pakistan Prime Minister sought US President Bill Clinton’s intervention on July 4, the US Independence Day, when Clinton was too occupied, for the safe passage of the Pakistani soldiers. They had been hopelessly surrounded by the Indian forces at the Kargil heights. President Clinton telephoned the then Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, to request him to let the Pakistani soldiers go without any reprisal.

In fact, President Clinton in his book, My Life, recorded the event in these words: “Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan called and asked if he could come to Washington on July 4 to discuss the dangerous standoff with India that had begun several weeks earlier when Pakistani forces under the command of General Pervez Musharraf had crossed the LoC which had been the recognised and generally observed boundary between India and Pakistan in Kashmir since 1972. Sharif was concerned that the situation Pakistan had created was getting out of control and he hoped to use my good offices to resolve the crisis.”

The President also recalled in the book that “Sharif’s moves were perplexing because that February, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had travelled to Lahore to promote bilateral talks aimed at resolving the Kashmir problem and other differences. By crossing the LoC, Pakistan had wrecked the talks.”

Still, Musharraf has the audacity to say that Pakistan had “caught India by the throat” at Kargil. He claimed to have raised a “second force”. This is the first time that Musharraf has admitted about the “second force”, the motley section of non-state actors, including the terrorists and infiltrators.

This has been New Delhi’s allegation all along. But Islamabad was denying it. Musharraf’s speech is meant for the Pakistani audience to rehabilitate himself in his own country which blames him for the debacle in 1999. His claim that he had got India “by the throat” is without any evidence and out of the sneering remarks he evokes in his country. The Indian commanders of those days have vehemently denied Musharraf’s claim. His purpose is to deny the facts and put the blame on the Pakistani politicians to assert that they have converted a military victory into a defeat.

The fact is that Musharraf’s antics made Pakistan face a humiliating defeat. True, he was able to station the infiltrators on top of the Kargil heights. But the Indian forces, after heavy losses, turned the tide and captured not only the Kargil heights but also thousands of Pakistani soldiers.

Yes, it did take us much too long to gear up to it. The plan on the offensive by our Army was not ready till America had mooted a proposal for the withdrawal of the intruders. Although at a disadvantage, the Indian forces showed grit and fought bravely. The air force coordinated well. India had cleared two-thirds of the occupied territory when Pakistan asked the intruders to return home. There was miscalcu-lation on the part of Pakistan’s top brass that it could demarcate another LoC to its advantage.

Just as New Delhi never gave out how much territory it lost, Islamabad too did not tell about its reverses. The Tiger Hill had been recaptured by India when Pakistan briefed the media that the mujahideen control on the Tiger Hill was intact. Had the Pakistanis been kept informed on the reverses, their feeling of humiliation would not have been as deep as it is today.

The problem with Musharraf is how to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of Pakistanis. They know how he embarrassed the Army with the ignoble defeat at Kargil. And they have not forgiven him. Thank God, the Pakistan media has not been taken in by his claim. He continues to be in the dog-house and his latest diatribe has been noted without any comment of support.

But this is not the dominant discussion in Pakistan today. The denial of passport to Syed Shah Geelani, a separatist leader, is catching all the attention. It is being argued that he should not be forced to spell out his nationality because he is a subject of Jammu and Kashmir, a “disputed territory”.

Geelani has changed in the last few years. Earlier, he felt little hesitation in pronouncing his nationality as Indian. Some years ago when I used to meet him regularly, he never raised the issue. Even though he belongs to the Jamiat-i-Islami, he wore his nationalist credentials on his sleeve. Why he has tilted towards Pakistan is something that requires a deeper study. He is generally not a person who is swayed by emotions.

What India has to look into is the reason for his tilt. Maybe, there are many Geelanis in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Why have they not changed in the last 70 years when Kashmir acceded to India? Is it religion? If this were so, the Kashmiri Muslims would not have been greatly upset when there was a proposal to have a separate colony for the Kashmiri pundits.

“They are part of us,” the Kashmir Muslims would say and they would “live in our midst” as they used to do earlier. Kashmiriyat is a product of sufiism which is a synthesis of religious values of Islam and Hinduism. Maybe, after the accession, India has forgotten those values. The need is to refurbish them, not to get lost in parochial ideology.

The author is a veteran journalist renowned not only in this country but also in our neighbouring states of Pakistan and Bangladesh where his columns are widely read. His website is www.kuldipnayar.com