iconimg Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Indo-Asian News Service, PTI
Islamabad, August 11, 2004
In his recent interview, Nawaz Sharif says he was not briefed by Gen Pervez Musharraf, then chief of army staff, about the 1999 Kargil war plans. You said he had been. What is the truth? When exactly was Nawaz briefed?
Nawaz lies when he claims that he knew about the Kargil intrusions only when he got a call from Prime Minister Vajpayee. I was interior minister during that period and there were six separate occasions when he was briefed on Kargil.

It began when Nawaz visited Skardu on January 29, 1999. He was again briefed by the army on February 5 (just two weeks before Vajpayee's visit to Lahore). Then he along with some cabinet colleagues, including me, was updated by senior military officials on March 12. I went late for it. At the end of it, Nawaz asked all of us to pray for the success of the mission.

What was the nature of the plan?
Nawaz used to be very sketchy in telling his cabinet colleagues about important issues. But in a meeting at the office of the director-general of military operation on 17 May, 1999 (day before the full-fledged war began), I remember Nawaz asking whether the Drass-Kargil road led to Srinagar. He also said that the Kashmir issue could not be resolved through bus journey and the military should keep up its operations.

Isn't it strange that just three months earlier he had signed a historic peace agreement with Vajpayee at Lahore?
Nawaz wanted to move on both tracks. He was not so interested in Kargil as much as he was in getting his name associated with the success in Kashmir.

But Sharif was categorical that barring a few generals no one, even the chiefs of air force and navy, was briefed.
Nawaz is just trying to confuse the issue. Musharraf didn't embark on this mission on his own. It is practically impossible. Now Nawaz says the air force and navy chiefs did not know. But were not the three services meeting regularly? Also when something is happening in the country and the prime minister does not know of it, then what kind of a prime minister is he? For Nawaz to say that he knew absolutely nothing about the Kargil war plans is wrong. As a Punjabi saying goes, he may want to close his eye like a pigeon, but the cat will not go away.

Sharif claims General Musharraf had mentioned to him only about a Mujahideen-like operation and never talked about employing the Pakistan Army to attack the Indian posts.
Just before Nawaz left for the US on July 2, there was a detailed briefing by the chiefs of army, navy and air force for the Defence Cabinet Committee. I was also there along with foreign minister Sartaj Aziz.

At first, the briefing was conducted by a brigadier. Then General Musharraf stood up and took over. When he sat down Nawaz told him, 'General Sahib, I didn't know about these things before.' Then Musharraf took out a diary, turned page after page and gave the dates on which he had briefed NawazNawaz.

To this, Nawaz had no answer. Then I said this should be the last meeting on this issue. That instead of blaming each other, the message should go out to the public that it was a joint effort and a collective responsibility.

Nawaz did not respond to my suggestion. He just got up and shook hands with everyone seated on his left. I was on his right side, he didn't shake hand with me.

Sharif, however, remains categorical that he had been kept largely in the dark by Gen Musharraf on all Kargil plans.
During detailed briefings, Nawaz would listen, but he didn't seem to register anything - he had an attention span of five minutes. He also had a cavalier style of taking decisions. At the start of cabinet meeting, he would go through the agenda items and say '1,2,3,4 — all approved' without consulting us.

In the corridors, he would at times reverse cabinet decisions soon after they were approved. Nawaz also has had a history of memory lapses. In 1992, he ordered an operation against the MQM in Karachi, but when he was out of power he denied any involvement and instead blamed it on the then army chief.

Nawaz says there is a need of a commission on Kargil to examine who was responsible for the war.
Nawaz was prime minister for four months or so after Kargil and he could have easily set up a commission during that time. Why didn't he do so? He had the powers to sack Musharraf with the stroke of a pen. But he did not use it.

Instead, he misused his powers by trying to divert the aircraft carrying Musharraf from Sri Lanka and precipitated events. It doesn't behove a former prime minister to undermine national interests by revealing state secrets while sitting in a foreign country. He acts like the prime minister of a hostile country. He should not have gone to this extent.

Why don't you set up a Kargil commission?
Will the Kargil commission end unemployment? Will it provide bread or remove poverty? Will it bring prices down? If the only purpose is to make political gain, then why raise this dead issue? There is a time and place for everything. This is an attempt to sabotage the Pakistan-India dialogue at a time when we are all moving toward peace.

A Kargil commission would lead to allegations and counter allegations and the peace process will get derailed. Far from being patriotic, the call for a Kargil commission is a conspiracy.

Nawaz says he had not entered into any deal for going into exile in Saudi Arabia.
There is no doubt that he left the country as part of a deal. There were two types of deals. One was for a pardon against his conviction, which he signed along with his brother Shahbaz and Abbas and his son Hussain.

The other deal was between the government of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in which Nawaz gave a list of 30 people or so and it was agreed that they go into exile in Saudi Arabia for a period of 10 years.

It was also decided that this deal would not be made public and if the matter ended up in Supreme Court, the judges would be briefed about the deal in the chambers. Nawaz convinced the Saudis that they should ask President Musharraf to let him go since he feared he would be hanged. The Saudis guaranteed that he would not take part in any political activity while in exile.

Sharif complains that the Pakistan government refuses to renew his passport though he has been twice prime minister.
Is General Musharraf a passport officer? The fact of the matter is that the passports of Nawaz and his entourage were seized by the Saudi authorities on their arrival. How can Nawaz apply for renewal of the passport when he doesn't have it?

Nawaz says he is willing to join hands with Bhutto to come back to Pakistan and bring about a change.
It is curious that they want to join hands while in Parliament their parties accuse each other every month of creating security risks for the country. When you call a person an enemy of the country, how can you make friends with them even in politics?

If Sharif comes back, will he be arrested?
He himself doesn't want to come back. According to the deal, he cannot go out of Saudi Arabia without the joint permission of Saudi and Pakistani governments. Even if he wants to come back there is only one proviso for that - both the governments should amend the agreement.

On the other hand, Benazir Bhutto can come back any time, but she will have to face the legal cases. By the way, Nawaz shares this trait with Benazir in that when they are in power everything is hunky-dory. Once they are out of it, everything in Pakistan looks terrible.

Sharif also says there is a deep resentment about the way General Musharraf has increased the role of the military in running the things.
Why is he talking about military interference? In 1981, he himself was introduced to politics by Punjab Governor Gen Gilani, a military man. Musharraf has taken steps to end the repeated imposition of martial law by setting up a National Security Council.

The majority in this council is of civilians. Also, the army is not an enemy-they are Pakistanis first and they are relevant to Pakistan. Their main purpose is to defend the country from both internal and external threats.

The other big issue is whether Musharraf will give up his post as chief of army staff by December 31 as agreed upon with the passage of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution.
Now they have made an issue out of Musharraf's uniform. The 17th Amendment carries everyone's signature, including mine. It is an unnecessary demand to get Musharraf to say right now at what place and at what time he will take off his uniform.

I assure you that the decision will be made in accordance with the provisions in the amendment. It can be interpreted in many ways and only the Supreme Court can do it.

Did differences between Musharraf and Zafarullah Khan Jamali lead to the latter's resignation as prime minister?
There was no bad blood between the two. Even after Jamali's resignation, the families invited each other for dinners and they are still doing so. I don't want to go into the reasons of his resignation except that they were personal.

Why did you accept a limited term of 45 days as prime minister?
I didn't accept the post earlier when I was leader of the parliamentary party. Jamali himself had proposed my name. There were two reasons why I didn't do it then. We had the example of one brother being prime minister at the Centre, while the other was chief minister of Punjab when the Sharif family was in power. (Pervez Elahi, Shujat's first cousin, is now chief minister of Punjab).

Secondly, I insisted from day one that I wanted the prime minister to come from the smallest province. Jamali from Baluchistan was the most suitable candidate. Regarding my 45-day tenure, in our culture if someone offers you something, you don't want to seem ungrateful and turn it down.

When Musharraf embarked on this new experiment, I went along with his new thinking. Moreover, Shaukat Aziz (the prime minister-designate) is a senator and has to be elected as member of the National Assembly to become a prime minister.

Are you happy with the pace of Pakistan-India peace talks?
I look at the talks in a positive way and I am very hopeful. The chances of a war between the two countries are less than one per cent now. I give full credit to India for its willingness to have a dialogue on the Kashmir issue after a lapse of 30 odd years. We are also ready to discuss other issues. We need to break down these walls of hatred quickly. If we do not find a solution now, then maybe we never will.