Nawaz knew little about ‘foolish’ Kargil op: ex-ISI chief

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By Fakhar Durrani

Former Director General (DG) Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt Gen (retd) Asad Durrani claims former military dictator Pervez Musharraf was obsessed with Kargil and it was a foolish operation. He claims Nawaz Sharif knew a very little about it and not the whole thing, but he had given the go-ahead, so he had to take political responsibility.

The former DG ISI made startling revelations in his new book co-authored by former RAW chief A S Dulat. The former spymaster has talked on almost every important issue related to India and Pakistan. General (retd) Durrani claims that after the Kargil operation, Musharraf was under pressure and knew that he would be sacked by Nawaz Sharif, so he developed a contingency plan in advance.

According to General (retd) Durrani, the Kargil operation was carried out after Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee’s visit to Lahore. Vajpayee’s initiative benefited India because everyone blamed Pakistan for Kargil, which was anyway a foolish operation, says Gen (retd) Durrani.

“As a two-star DGMO, he suggested doing so during Benazir Bhutto’s second tenure. ‘Prime Minister, we can do that,’ so he said. She replied, ‘Maybe you can, but politically it won’t be sustainable.’ When he became the army chief, he said that after carrying out nuclear tests Pakistan was in a better position for the operation,” says Gen (retd) Durrani.

According to former spymaster, Nawaz Sharif, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan knew a very little about this operation, however, he gave go-ahead to Musharraf. Therefore, he says he would give him the benefit of doubt.

“How the rest of the world reacted to his irresponsibility. He probably misjudged India’s strong reaction too. Vajpayee was going for early elections, so leaving it at that would have cost him dearly. It misfired and the heights had to be vacated. Only a few people were privy to the plan. Nawaz Sharif knew a bit, not the whole thing, but he had given the go-ahead, so he had to take political responsibility. I give him the benefit of doubt, that he did not know the plan’s extent; he may have thought that just a small area would be taken”, says the former spymaster.

General (retd) Asad believes that Musharraf made a flawed assessment of nuclearization theory that the hostilities would not escalate in the post-nuclearization era. “His premise on ‘nuclear immunity’: that after going nuclear, we could get away with plenty of things. The part he got wrong, of course, was that if you do these things it may not escalate to nuclear war but you would be accused of being reckless, unwise. That you are risking a nuclear confrontation in the belief that 95 per cent of the time it will not happen. But what about the other 5 per cent?” says Gen (retd) Durrani.

General (retd) Durrani claims that Musharraf was under immense pressure after the failed operation and one day he invited him to his office for advice. “In August, Musharraf and I had a one-on-one. Musharraf invited me to his office and said the government was bent upon publicly blaming the army for the Kargil fiasco. Fine, I said, so what? He said he just wanted my opinion on what would happen. I said, if I know Nawaz Sharif, he would continue to be uncomfortable with you, as he was with Baig, with Asif Nawaz, and even with Jehangir Karamat, who was a laid-back army chief, professionally sound and who did not throw his weight around. Even after the 1998 Indian nuclear tests, Karamat said merely, prime minister, this is the army’s view, you have to consider the political and economic fallout. But with him also it did not work out; three months before he was to retire, he resigned rather than take a second more of the acrimony. So I told Musharraf it won’t work out with you. He’ll look for an opportunity to get rid of you. But this is not the right environment for a political coup; ‘even banana republics nowadays have a façade of democracy,’ I remember saying. So go ahead and think of the next step. That’s where I left. It was clear that Musharraf could not launch a coup”.

According to the former spymaster, after the Kargil operation Musharraf knew that he would be sacked so he developed a contingency plan in advance. “In September Nawaz Sharif concluded that he would be uncomfortable with Musharraf continuing in the powerful post. One way of making Musharraf irrelevant without sacking him was to promote him to be the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This is a post that commands one PA and one orderly. An emissary was sent with the offer but Musharraf turned it down. Nawaz Sharif then offered to keep him as the army chief and also promote him as chairman. Musharraf says, that I can do. It became clear to Musharraf that he would be sacked at the first opportunity, so he developed a contingency plan”.

Talking about the Abbottabad operation by American Navy Seals killing Osama Bin Laden, the former spy chief urged General (retd) Ashfaq Pervez Kayani and General (retd) Ahmed Shuja Pasha to make public if there was any deal about the OBL operation. “I don’t think there is any reason for him, or for Pasha who was heading the ISI at that time, for keeping quiet. Get the secret out because we’ve been getting the worst of both worlds. We are blamed for incompetence, for playing a double game; and what did we get in return? That is what I want to know”.

He believed there was a retired Pakistani officer who told the Americans about the whereabouts of OBL. “There was a retired Pakistani officer in intelligence walked in and told the Americans. I won’t take his name because I can’t prove it and also I don’t want to give him any publicity. How much of the 50 million dollars he got, who knows. But he is missing from Pakistan”.

To a question about Indian consulates in Afghanistan, General (retd) Durrani says, “If Indian consulates are used, we’ll be happy. There are four consulates and an embassy but we need not inflate their number. In Pakistan some people, who are ill-informed and sometimes silly, will talk of nine consulates, 18; the maximum number I’ve heard is 23. If the Indians were to conduct espionage from four consulates, then we should be happy because then we can keep track. Anyway, espionage is usually not done from there. A couple of Indian construction companies could employ a couple of Jadhavs. That is difficult to track. Essentially, we exaggerate Indian influence like we exaggerated the number of consulates. What worried me most about the Jadhav case was the Iranian factor. It has led to speculation in Pakistan, that when Mullah Akhtar Mansoor was returning from some meetings in Iran, Iranian intelligence put a chip in his vehicle that helped the Americans to track him down. Even if this was true I would not talk about it. It’s creating problems between Iran and Pakistan. But regarding Balochistan: espionage happens, people are involved. Second, I’ve always felt we are overplaying India’s involvement. The Americans are more involved. There are others who have more reason to get involved”.