Jury still out on Kargil
ISLAMABAD: Even though it was scheduled at one o clock on a Sunday afternoon, the proverbial lunch hour, the large hall in which the Kargil discussion took place was jam packed.
Journalists, diplomats, retired ambassadors, young and old – it seemed as if everyone wanted to hear about Kargil, the Indo-Pak conflict that took place in the summer of 1999.
Clearly, Pakistani audiences continue to be intrigued by it; perhaps no nation can put such a controversial conflict behind them especially where it is still to be decided which Pakistani leaders agreed to it in the first place.
And despite an hour-long discussion, the audience walked out with no clear cut answer to the most important question of all – whether or not then prime minister Nawaz Sharif had known of the operation in advance.
The discussants were Riaz Khokhar, Tariq Osman Hyder and Nasim Zahra while the event was moderated by Rashed Rahman.
The retired ambassador who was serving in Washington in those chaotic days, Riaz Khokhar, felt that NS must have been told.
Journalist and analyst Nasim Zehra, who is working on a book on Kargil, recounted the day she dropped in on the prime minister. She told the audience that Sharif had, just moments before, spoken to then Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee who had informed his Pakistani counterpart about what was happening at Kargil. According to her, the prime minister was in shock.
In order to support her contention, Zahra also referred to the recent autobiography of General Shahid Aziz and added that Kargil was carried out by “an army clique”. She pointed out, “Even the army as an institution did not know about it”.
By the end of the discussion, Khokhar was compelled to say that, “the jury is still out on the issue.”
However, the discussants did seem to agree on the fact that Kargil was a mistake – though the degrees with which this judgment was passed may have varied. But not a single discussant thought that the operation had helped Pakistan or was willing to agree with Musharraf’s assessment in his autobiography, where he called it a “victory”.
As Riaz Khokhar explained, it established Pakistan’s image as an irresponsible nation, something that it has not been able to erase since then.
Zehra, however, did try to argue that Kargil’s roots needed to be traced back to India’s earlier violations of the Simla agreement and could not be viewed in isolation.
It was not clear if others agreed with her view but she did strike a chord when she praised the bravery of the Pakistani soldiers who fought and died on the mountain tops in the summer of 2000.
In fact, later a young woman from the audience asked her to speak in greater detail about the young men who lost their lives in this conflict.