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Pakistan’s Refusal To Learn From History Will Haunt Us Forever

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Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that he would have sacked the army chief had the Kargil war with India been started without informing him. The then prime minister Nawaz Sharif has long maintained that he was not aware of what was happening when the conflict broke out in 1999. He says the then army chief Pervez Musharraf had attacked Kargil without informing him.

I was just going through the events of 1999, and realised that the situation is not much different even now.

“I left at my own request, to save my institution from controversial and uninformed public debate. There was no conspiracy, no ambition and never did the PM ask me to leave. I acted in what I thought were the best interest of the army and the country at that time,” General Jahangir Karamat has been quoted as saying in the book ‘A history of the Pakistan Army’.

The General Karamat episode was distasteful and served to affirm the opinion that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had become too powerful for the country. As General Karamat went into retirement, Lieutenant General Pervez Musharraf was appointed COAS on 6 Oct, 1998, and on 7 Oct, 1998 appointed the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), superseding Lieutenant Generals Khalid Nawaz and Ali Quli Khan. Both Khalid Nawaz and Ali Quli Khan resigned. General Musharraf had as many outstanding credentials as those whom he superseded.

During the military reshuffle in 1998, the PM appointed General Zia Uddin as Director General Inter-Services Intelligence. The reason assumed that prime minister Nawaz Sharif wanted to have one person holding the two positionss was that he thought it was good for his own security to have both posts in the hands of one pliable individual who would do what he wished. He considered himself more threatened by the existence of two senior figures than by one who held two appointments. –A history of Pakistan Army

A week after the appointments, Gohar Ayub Khan, Minister for power, announced that military personnel would be seconded to electricity distribution regions because according to the Prime Minister, WAPDA itself could not contain line losses, pilferage and inefficiency. The Pakistan Armed Forces Ordinance, 1998 was signed by the then President Mohammad Rafiq Tarar. The Ordinance was intended to legalise harsh counter-measures against terrorism and general mayhem in Sindh, especially in Karachi. In February 1999 the Supreme Court ruled against the use of military tribunals, but in the Prime Minister’s opinion the military courts had shown good results. He had said that murderers and rapists roam around freely for years. Such people should be hanged publicly and their cases decided in twenty four hours, three days or seven days. The army had been assured that its role was beneficial to the country. –The News Oct 1998

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The illegal incursion into Indian-administered Kashmir in early 1999, went undetected by Indian forces until 6 May. Pakistan stated that no regular troops were involved in the incursions. The Kargil crisis exposed the bankruptcy of Pakistan’s national policy. Events around Kargil had done immense damage to the already faltered economy, isolated Pakistan internationally, and proved highly divisive internally.

In the post Kargil situation, Pakistan faced critical choices on both domestic and external fronts. In 1999, the country was far from stable; the economy was in tatters and the rule of law was all but defunct. Press freedom was under continuous threat.

According to Human Rights Watch: The government charged Najam Sethi on June 1 with sedition, promoting communal enmity, condemning the creation of Pakistan and advocating the abolition of its sovereignty, and violating the Prevention of Anti-National Activities Act. The charges were withdrawn a day later, after the government failed to produce evidence before the Supreme Court. On 24 June, Zafar Ali Shah, the parliamentary secretary for parliamentary affairs, filed a petition with the chief election commissioner seeking an inquiry into Najam Sethi’s religious status, if Sethi were found to be a non-Muslim, he should lose his right to vote. After his release on 2 June, the authorities seized his passport and his wife’s bank accounts. On 3, August, the Senate voted to block debate over a draft resolution condemning incidents of violence against women.

When the prime minister extended General Musharraf’s term as Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee until 6 Oct 2001, his action resulted in the resignation of the Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Fasih Bokhari. The Chief of the Naval Staff had evidence that a coup was about to take place against the government of Nawaz Sharif. Admiral Bukhari was definite about it. When he was asked, why in his view General Musharraf wanted to topple Nawaz Sharif’s government, the Admiral replied: “Because he feared he will have to face a court martial for master minding Kargil.” At the Saudi National Day reception on 23, September, 1999, General Musharraf answered a question at the possibility of a serious rift with the Prime Minister by saying, “We enjoy excellent relations with the government.” I am a soldier and don’t want to enter into any controversy.

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South Asia Tribune/ Andrew Hill (Rediff)

On 9 October, 1999, it was announced that the Corps Commander of XII Corps, Lieutenant General Tariq Parvaiz Khan has been asked to retire by GHQ.

The announcement on 12 October, 1999 that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had for the second time dismissed an Army Chief led to a coup. When the Prime Minister made the announcement of General Pervez Musharraf’s dismissal, the General was in Colombo. Lieutenant General Muzaffar Ali Usmani, who suffered a heart attack and was found dead in his vehicle earlier this week, sent troops to the airport and went there himself. The then PIA chairman Shahid Khan Abbasi and his deputy, Nadir Chaudhry were apprehended by the troops and later arrested.

The rest is history, and the history is reminding us that we don’t learn from the history, but continue to live in it.

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Naya Daur