ISLAMABAD: Opinion regarding whether Nawaz Sharif was aware of the Kargil episode was split during the launch of a book on the conflict on Friday.

From Kargil to the Coup by journalist Nasim Zehra was launched at the Islamabad Club with a large number of diplomats, politicians, retired army officials and bureaucrats participating in the event, which was moderated by columnist Mosharraf Zaidi.

Retired Maj Gen Ejaz Awan said the Lahore Declaration – a bilateral agreement between India and Pakistan after the conclusion of a historic summit which was attended by the then Indian prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in Lahore – was signed on Feb 22, 1999 but some facts show that then prime minister Nawaz Sharif was already aware of the Kargil incident.

“In Jan 1999, a briefing was given to Mr Sharif in which it was suggested that just like the Indians tried to occupy some posts in the Neelum Valley, Pakistan should also occupy some posts across the control line. Till March, two more briefings were given to Mr Sharif on the same issue,” he said.

Opposition leader in Senate Sherry Rehman said elected leaders need to take responsibility. She claimed that a similar briefing was given to Benazir Bhutto, who had asked the presenters what their next step would be.

“During the briefings, [Mr Sharif] should have asked questions,” she said, adding that the book will now clear many things.

On the other hand, retired Lt Gen Amjad Shoaib said that even corps commanders were not aware of the issue and that troops were already in Kargil when they were taken on board.

Ashraf Jehangir, who was the high commissioner in India at the time, said that after Vajpayee’s visit, there was a feeling that the peace process will start till the Kargil incident happened.

He said just after the conflict, Mr Vajpaee contacted Mr Sharif and asked why the Pakistani troops had crossed the line of control. Mr Sharif had said he will ask the army and will get back to him.

Former foreign secretary Riaz Khokhar said the time has come to hold those responsible to account. He said he did not believe that Mr Sharif was aware of the incident. “I think he knew but he did not know the seriousness of the issue,” he said.

The author of the book, Nasim Zehra said it was true that during three briefings, Nawaz Sharif was told about the idea of occupying one or two Indian posts. But, she said, Kargil was never discussed during those briefings.

Commanding officer of Kargil, retired Brig Tanveer Ahmed Khan said it was Mr Musharraf’s duty to take the prime minister onboard before conducting the exercise.

“We put our life in danger without question. It was also Nawaz Sharif’s duty to ask about the matter. As far as secrecy is concerned, no one knew about it. Even my wife did not know because sharing details of an operation compromises its success,” he said.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2018

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