Special Study for Opinion Maker
By Brig Asif Haroon Raja
After untimely sacking of Gen Jahangir Karamat by PM Nawaz Sharif, Lt Gen Ali Kuli Khan being the senior most and doing as CGS was the obvious choice for the next COAS. Hardnosed Lt Gen Khalid Nawaz, Commander 11 Corps was next in the line and flamboyant Lt Gen Pervez Musharraf commanding 1 Corps was third in the seniority list. The two brothers, Secretary Defence retired Lt Gen Iftikhar Ali and Chaudhri Nisar Ali, were unfavorably disposed towards Ali Kuli, unit-mate of Iftikhar. The latter never liked Ali Kuli because of clash of personality. The two brothers cautioned Nawaz that Ali Kuli would prove dangerous because of his political affiliations and strong family background. They strongly recommended Musharraf arguing that he being a Muhajir and rootless was harmless and would serve him more loyally and submissively than the other.
Musharraf was introduced by Nisar to Nawaz during a dinner hosted after the Corps Commanders conference in GHQ in 2008. Gen Pervez Musharraf’s elevation to the coveted post of COAS on October 6, 1998 came as a surprise to many. No sooner he took over, the first thing he did was to reshuffle senior appointments with a view to place his close confidantes at important places which alarmed Nawaz and his coterie. Musharraf placed newly promoted Lt Gen Aziz Khan as CGS who had served with him in SSG, his unit officer Lt Gen Mahmud Ahmed as Commander 10 Corps, and Lt Gen Usmani as Commander 5 Corps Karachi. As a counter move; Lt Gen Ziauddin Butt serving as AG was appointed as DG ISI by Nawaz. From there on, trust deficit never got bridged.
The most intriguing thing which occurred was activation of Dras-Kargil front by Gen Musharraf in close consultation with Lt Gens Aziz, Mahmood and Javed Hasan (commander FCNA). A little later, Maj Gen Tauqir Zia (DGMO) was co-opted. No other general officer as well as the PM, President, Foreign Office and two service chiefs was taken into confidence. The movement of irregular Northern Light Infantry units located in Gilgit and Skardu started in November 1998 in Gulteri sector, that is, one month after Musharraf’s takeover as Army Chief. In their enthusiasm, young officers went much beyond the planned bridgeheads in Dras and Kargil sectors and were in a position to dominate/cut the strategic road leading to Leh. Nawaz was casually informed by Musharraf in a briefing in PM Secretariat in March 1999 about the ingress across the LoC who couldn’t grasp the military implications of readjustment and improvement of defensive posture. The idea behind the venture was to neutralize Indian military’s advantage of dominating/cutting the LoC at several points and to internationalize Kashmir issue. It was assumed that because of nuclear deterrence India would not declare open war.
Accidental discovery of footprints of the intruders by Indian military in May 1999 led to Kargil conflict, which had all the potential to turn into full-fledged war with nuclear overtones. With its jugular vein clutched by the intruders, Indian Army used up its entire infantry including strategic reserves to recapture the posts but failed. Israeli supplied precision guided missiles were used to destroy the posts, but few hundred defenders devoid of air, artillery and logistic support and literally eating grass to survive, stood their ground. In that timeframe, Indian military was most vulnerable since it had lost offensive capacity elsewhere.
When Nawaz was taken on board mid-stream, he started swimming with the tide enthusiastically. After few weakly held forward posts on Toulolong ridge were lost as a result of concentrated use of 100 Bofor guns against a single post at a time and situation took an ugly turn because of US led G-8 massive pressure, Nawaz with the consent of Musharraf dashed to Washington on July 3 and agreed to ceasefire and vacate the occupied heights. Had the military applied brinkmanship by moving strategic reserves and posed a threat south of Pir Panjal, India would have come running to the negotiating table to settle Kashmir dispute. Kargil conflict was won by Pak on the battlefield but lost on the media plane orchestrated by Indo-Western media.
It is still not clear why Musharraf was in such a great hurry to carry out such a risky manoeuvre just after takeover and whether he took prior permission from executive head. Kargil proved to be Nawaz’s waterloo. Although Nawaz gave additional portfolio of CJCSC to Musharraf to appease him, but cold war between the two continued. Lt Gen Tariq Pervez, Commander 12 Corps/brother-in-law of Maj retired Nadir Pervez; minister in PML-N government was sacked by Gen Musharraf in September 1999 after a shouting match between the two on the issue of Kargil.
On the afternoon of October 12, 1999, Nawaz sacked Musharraf and appointed DG ISI Gen Ziauddin Butt as his replacement when Gen Musharraf was in the air flying home from his visit to Colombo. He took this knee-jerk decision fearing a military coup. The two key members of Kargil team, Lt Gens Mahmood and Aziz Khan and Brig Salahuddin Satti (Commander 111 Brigade) implemented the already approved contingency plan. They launched the coup the same evening and arrested Nawaz and others. Maj Gen Orakzai (DCGS) also took part. Lt Gens Khalid Maqbool (4 Corps), Abu Saeed Zafar (11 Corps), Usmani sided with coup-makers.
PM Nawaz, his MS Brig Javed and Gen Ziauddin were arrested by coup-makers and put in solitary confinement. Military takeover was rejoiced by all political parties. Nawaz was awarded life sentence by the court on account of unconvincing charges of hijacking and terrorism and he and his brother Shahbaz sent to Attock jail. The duo was lucky to go in exile for ten years under an agreement brokered by Saudi government since the prosecutors were trying to convert Nawaz’s life term to death sentence. Gen Ziauddin was dismissed from service and he remained in confinement for two years. Lt Gens Akram (QMG), Afzal Janjua (IGT&E), Salahuddin Tirmizi (Commandant NDC), and Salim Haider (Commander 1 Corps) were not in favor of the coup but were allowed by Musharraf to complete their respective service tenures. The coup was validated by the Supreme Court and Musharraf was allowed to amend the constitution.
Gen Musharraf’s seven-point agenda was promising and had the potential of ridding Pakistan of many ailments piled up during 11 years of sickly democratic era. Accountability of the wrongdoers and introduction of monitoring system to monitor the progress of each government and semi-government department were healthy initiatives. Good management, control of unbridled corruption through monitoring system, recovery of ill-gotten wealth by NAB and regard of merit system helped in growth of economic indicators. He expanded and liberalized media and introduced the concept of enlightened moderation to show soft face of Pakistan.
Things began to go astray when Musharraf made the first fatal mistake of docilely submitting to seven demands of USA after 9/11 and pushing Pakistan into the inferno of war on terror and placing Pakistan at the mercy of USA. His next mistake was the holding of farcical referendum in April 2002 to get himself elected as President. In his bid to help his King’s Party to wrest levers of power, he authorized massive rigging in 2002 elections. For the achievement of this purpose he made the accountability selective thereby pouring cold water on laudable efforts made by NAB. Entry of chronic crooks in the corridors of power re-opened floodgates of mismanagement, corruption, chicanery and intrigues. Civil officials and police extracted double graft from people in the name of Army. Puppets in the Parliament kept him charmed by singing melodious tunes of sycophancy that he was gifted with all-round sterling qualities. Persecution of religious extremists and change of Kashmir policy eroded his standing among the conservative segment of society. He survived three attempts on life by the skin of teeth.
His concept of enlightened moderation made him the darling of the west and the liberal class in Pakistan. Carried away by plaudits he received from foreign media on account of his deft handling of media persons, he thought there was none in Pakistan wiser than him. Visible improvement in economy, rise in GDP to 7%, boom in estate property and stock exchange, enlargement of foreign reserves and visible improvement in higher education intoxicated him and he started to agree to the views expressed by his court jesters that Pakistan had not seen a leader better than him after Quaid-e-Azam. He started dreaming of becoming life-long President. It was this self-delusion which impelled him to get rid of Chief Justice Iftikhar on March 7, 2007 since he considered him a possible threat to his ambitions. This was his major blunder which pushed him down the slope. He tried to recover his lost ground by declaring emergency on November 3, 2007 and sacking 60 judges of superior courts but these draconian steps further accelerated his downslide.
The NRO brokered by USA and UK in July 2007 was his worst sin since the nation is suffering from its ill-effects to this date. By allowing exiled leaders Benazir and Nawaz Sharif to return home, he cooked his goose. Chairman NAB Lt Gen Shahid Aziz resigned from his post when Musharraf asked him to be selective and soft on some of the wrongdoers. On his way out one thing good Musharraf did was to appoint Ashfaq Pervez Kayani as COAS in November 2007. Inwardly, he wanted Gen Tariq Majeed, whom he appointed CJCSC.
Murder of Benazir Bhutto on December 27, 2007 was pre-planned by master planners to create a political impasse/destabilization, make Pakistan a ‘failed State’ and by 2015 fragment it like Yugoslavia. Some speculate Zardari was part of the gory plan. Benazir’s murder added to the woes of Musharraf since he and Brig Ijaz Hussain Shah, the then DG IB were suspected of having a hand in her murder. Threatened to be impeached by the new PPP government backed by PML-N, Musharraf considered it wise to step down in August 2008 and go in exile to London. Zardari helped him in his safe exit. Whatever his failings, Musharraf kept Pakistan relevant. During his exile, he formed a political party and committed the mistake of returning to Pakistan in March 2013 to take part in general elections. He is now in thick soup since he is facing several court cases and is undergoing trial under Article 6 of constitution.