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'Sharif offered to back Kargil intrusion only if it succeeds'

world Updated: Jun 03, 2008 13:00 IST
PTI
Pakistan

Former premier Nawaz Sharif was kept in the dark initially about the Pakistan Army's plan to intrude into the Kargil but he later gave conditional support to the operation, a former aide of President Pervez Musharraf has said.

Lt Gen (retired) Jamshed Gulzar Kayani, who served in the Inter-Services Intelligence and commanded the crucial Rawalpindi-based 10 Corps, said he believed Sharif was "not carried on board" during the initial stages of the intrusion into Kargil sector of Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistani troops in early 1999.

Kayani, who was then in the ISI, subsequently briefed the former premier on the Kargil issue at a high-level meeting on May 17, 1999. Sharif told Musharraf, who was then the army chief, that he would support the operation "as long as you succeed".

However, Sharif also told Musharraf that it would be very difficult for him to back the operation "if there were reverses", Kayani said in an interview aired on the Geo TV channel last night.

"In my individual opinion, he (Sharif) was not carried on board. If you go in for such an operation, you have to bring the chief executive on board. You have to give him comprehensive briefings on each and every step (as the Kargil operation) could have opened out into an all out war," said Kayani, who is now part of a group of retired military officers pressing for Musharraf's ouster from office.

Reacting to Kayani's comments, Sharif said that Kargil was a "misadventure" by Musharraf who gave different versions of the operations to him and the army.

"Musharraf made a blunder. It was a misadventure. He told something else to the army and something else to me," the PML (N) leader told an Indian TV channel.

Kayani also said that the persons who planned the Kargil operation did not anticipate a strong response from the Indian military, including the use of air power.

Despite the "gallantry of troops and young officers", Pakistan suffered "reverses due to the intense response" by India, he said.

In the case of any military operation of the scale of Kargil, which could have expanded into all-out war, there are comprehensive briefings. The ultimate responsibility is of the Prime Minister, his clearance is a must for every step."

During the briefing on May 17, 1999, Sharif was "uncertain" and asked the "high-profile" personalities present if it would "be correct to give the green signal for the Kargil operation", Kayani said.

He quoted then Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz as saying, "Sir, I will not be able to support it on the diplomatic milieu." Certain generals present at the meeting also raised questions as to whether the Pakistan Army could logistically support the operation.

After consulting everyone present at the meeting, Sharif gave Musharraf the "green signal" and said the Kargil operation could go on "as long as you succeed".

Kayani added: "But in cases of reverses, Nawaz Sharif said it will be very difficult for me to support the operation."

The bodies of some dead Pakistani soldiers were never found and Sharif finally went to the US to work out an understanding to end the conflict as he wanted to save the dignity and respect of the Pakistan Army, Kayani said. MORE

Kayani said an inquiry should be held to settle the issue of whether Sharif was aware when the Kargil operation was launched.

"Musharraf says Nawaz Sharif was carried on board, (so) let there be an inquiry. There should definitely be an inquiry, though it should be a closed-door inquiry as the matter involves a lot of very sensitive issues that should not come out in public."

At the same time, Kayani said Kargil "was not the brainchild of Musharraf". A similar military operation had been considered earlier too and had even been broached to Benazir Bhutto during her tenure as Prime Minister.

The Kargil event was also "the main reason for the differences which cropped up between Nawaz Sharif and Musharraf", he said. After the "Kargil debacle", Musharraf feared he "would be booted out" and Sharif "was sure there would be a coup against him", he added.

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