Musharraf responsible for Kargil conflict: Ex-ISI chief

Islamabad, Oct 31 (IANS) Pakistan’s former president Pervez Musharraf and his close associates were responsible for the 1999 Kargil conflict between India and Pakistan, the then chief of Pakistani army’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) said Sunday.

The retired general Ziauddin Butt, who is now the chairman of chief minister’s inspection team in Pakistan’s Punjab province, has demanded a thorough probe into the matter.

“The then prime minister Nawaz Sharif was not given a proper briefing on the Kargil operation. Musharraf bluffed him (Nawaz) to start the Kargil war”, he said in an interview to GEO TV Sunday night.

“A thorough inquiry ought to be conducted to unearth the facts,” he said.

“Pervez Musharraf, Lt. Gen. Mahmood and Lt. Gen. Aziz Khan hatched the whole plot along with a few other close associate in the military”, he said, adding, “Lt. Gen. Tariq Pervez opposed the offensive in a meeting and was forcibly retired from army by Pervez Musharraf later on as a punishment”.

“The political leadership was kept out of the loop”, he said. “The federal cabinet demanded removal of Musharraf as chief of army staff in a meeting June 3, 1999 because the country had to face embarrassment internationally on account of Kargil war”.

“Nawaz Sharif decided against removing him on the pretext that it would further demoralise the morale of the army”, Butt revealed. “The meetings that were later portrayed by Musharraf as briefings on Kargil to Nawaz Sharif had nothing to do with the subject.”

Pakistan and India fought the battle between May and July, 1999 when the Pakistani forces tried to capture the peaks of Kargil in Jammu and Kashmir and take control of the Srinagar-Leh highway and the Line of Control (LoC).

Nawaz Sharif had said that he was never taken on board by Musharraf before starting the operation in Kargil.

General Ziauddin, who was serving as the ISI chief at that time, was appointed as Pakistan’s army chief Oct 12, 1999 after Nawaz Sharif issued an order to sack Musharraf while he was returning from Colombo.

The army generals associated with Musharraf refused to accept the orders and the government was toppled soon after Musharraf’s plane landed in Karachi. Ziauddin was arrested and jailed for almost two years on charges of treason, but was not court-martialed. Musharraf ruled the country for nine years following the bloodless coup.

“Instead of me, Musharraf and his close confidants who affected the coup should be subjected to court-martial”, said Ziauddin, adding “Musharraf had the plans to take-over from the very first day of his appointment as army chief”.

“He never deserved to become the army chief on merit and used to bug the phone of presidency and prime minister besides spying on important meetings”, Ziauddin said.

“Nawaz Sharif had never conspired against the military and a false propaganda was launched to justify the coup”, he added.

“If these generals would not be tried in a court of law, coups will keep taking place in Pakistan”, he said, adding “the basic structure of army needs to be changed to avoid such instances in future”.

“The best person to accomplish this task is the current army chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, who has done a lot to revive the image of armed forces”, he said.

Ziauddin spent a few years in exile after being released from prison. After the ouster of Musharraf in 2008, he returned to Pakistan and is now serving as the chairman of chief minister’s inspection team in Pakistan’s Punjab province, which is ruled by Nawaz Sharif’s party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.