The making of the Kargil disaster

Excerpts from Nasim Zehra's book, 'From Kargil To The Coup: Events That Shook Pakistan'.
Published July 1, 2018

Journalist Nasim Zehra’s recently published book, From Kargil To The Coup: Events That Shook Pakistan, provides the first meticulous documentation of the events that surrounded the controversial Kargil incursion in 1999 which almost brought Pakistan and India to the brink of war.

It is based on scores of primary interviews with military officials, politicians, civilian bureaucrats, analysts and Western envoys, as well as extensive research from published accounts in the international and domestic media.

The following is an extract, reprinted under permission, that reconstructs the first time that a very secretive and already advanced military operation was divulged to the civilian government ostensibly in charge of approving such operations. What this narrative shows clearly is how the follies of non-consultative policymaking, critical non-engagement from civilians and military hubris can lead to political disasters and possibly worse...

On May 17, 1999, the prime minister was given a detailed operational briefing on Operation Koh Paima (Op KP). It was held at the Inter Services Intelligence’s (ISI’s) Ojhri Camp office, only a few miles away from Islamabad, against the backdrop of Indian press reports claiming that Mujahideen under fire cover provided by Pakistani soldiers had infiltrated along the Line of Control (LoC)…

The Director General Military Operations (DGMO) Lt Gen Tauqir Zia gave the detailed presentation. The entire Kargil clique, including the army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf, the Chief of General Staff Lt Gen Aziz Khan, Commander 10 Corps Lt Gen Mahmud Ahmed, and Commander Force Command Northern Areas (FCNA) Brigadier Javed Hassan, was present. Key men from ISI in attendance included the DG ISI Lt Gen Ziauddin Butt, director analysis wing Major Gen Shahid Aziz, and ISI’s point man for Afghanistan and Kashmir Maj Gen Jamshed Gulzar, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, accompanied by the Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz, the Finance Minister, the Minister for Northern Areas and Kashmir Affairs Lt Gen (r) Majeed Malik, the Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmad, and his principal secretary Saeed Mehdi.

Take a look: When Pakistan and India went to war over Kashmir in 1999

This was the first interface of the prime minister and his cabinet members with the planners and implementers of the Kargil Operation…

DGMO Zia began the presentation with the words: “Sir, as per your desire we have made a plan to upgrade the freedom movement in Kashmir.” It would be a five-phased operation and the first phase had been completed, he explained. He then proceeded to show, on the map, scores of positions that had already been taken. However, military maps without any text were used for the briefing. Nothing was written and they only had symbols on them. Normally, even military men receiving briefings on such maps, with only symbols, first require orientation to understand what these maps represent. For example, the LoC was not clearly demarcated on the map. Hence, during the presentation, when Pakistani and Indian positions were pointed out to the prime minister, he was unable to fully comprehend the locations of these posts. Instead, for him, the main focus of the briefing were the achievements of the Pakistani troops. There was no mention of Pakistani troops crossing the LoC, nor of the Pakistani troop build-up five to 10 kilometres beyond the LoC. One of the retired generals recalled, “I saw scores of positions across the LoC in the IOK [Indian Occupied Kashmir] area.”

India-held Kashmir is spread over three areas: the Jammu sector, Pir Panjal Range to the [Kashmir] valley, and the Leh and Ladakh sector. The entry from Jammu to the valley is through the Manihaal Pass and from Leh and Ladakh the entry is through the Zojila Pass. The DGMO explained that, in phase two, “We will infiltrate freedom fighters into Leh and Ladakh, who will start the insurgency in the area.” In phase three, the general predicted that, when pressure was applied on the Indian forces from the flanking sectors through the operations of these infiltrating groups, the Indians would start bringing their troops to Ladakh and Jammu, leaving the valley virtually drained of troops. In phase four, the DGMO explained, Pakistan would rush in large numbers of freedom fighters into the valley and block the Manihaal and Zojila passes, thereby isolating the valley and occupying the area. The general predicted that in phase five, the final phase, the Indians would be on their knees begging for talks and Pakistan could dictate its own terms.

Assumptions and presumptions

The DGMO proceeded to share the four assumptions which, according to its planners, guaranteed the success of the five-­phase Op KP. First, each post being held was impregnable. Second, the Indians did not have the will or the determination to take on Pakistan in a fight and would not make any serious effort to regain the heights. Third, as far as the international context was concerned, Pakistan need not worry because there would be no external pressure. Fourth, that the army recognised the economic crunch faced by the country and therefore the government would not be asked for any extra resources for operation; the army would use its own sources to fulfill the financial requirements.

The main thrust of the presentation was to inform the elected leadership of the army’s “achievements” along and across the LoC. The impression given was that the strategic heights lay somewhere in the un-demarcated zones. The DGMO informed the participants that Pakistan’s troops had occupied strategic heights that Indians would now find almost impossible to reoccupy. The army chief emphasised the irreversibility factor and said that, based on the wisdom and experience of his entire professional career, he could “guarantee the success of the operation.”

The thrust of the briefing was to inform the civilian participants that, because of the operation, the tempo of “jihad” would increase, that only the Mujahideen were conducting the operations and Pakistan was only providing logistical support, and that militarily the peaks taken by the Mujahideen were impregnable. The architects of Koh Paima were confident that India would first “create noise, then respond militarily, but the fighting to follow would be restricted to the operation’s area. Finally, India would be quiet, the participants were told, and tell its public that it had retaken the peaks. This flawed assumption by the Koh Paima architects was, in fact, a wishful extrapolation from what had mostly been Pakistan’s own response pattern to major Indian incursions across the LoC. Especially after India launched a major operation in 1984 to occupy the Siachen glacier, Pakistan under the military ruler Gen Ziaul Haq had remained mum. No response from India, the architects concluded, would provide Pakistan with bargaining chips over Kashmir.

Flattery was in abundance. The CGS piled on more, “Sir, you will go down in the history of Pakistan as the PM in whose tenure Kashmir was resolved.”

Clearly, the masterminds of Kargil were not seeking permission for the operation they had already launched. The prime minister was presented with a fait accompli. With the cover of Op KP having been nearly blown and diplomatic pressure imminent, the Kargil clique was seeking political and diplomatic cover for the operation. The prime minister was pointedly asked if he and his team could politically and diplomatically leverage their ‘unassailable’ military achievements to promote and project the Kashmir cause.

Flies and honey

Following the DGMO, the CGS Lt. Gen. Aziz Khan rose to flatter the prime minister. “Sir, Pakistan was created with the efforts of the Quaid and the Muslim League and they will always be remembered for creating Pakistan and now Allah has given you the opportunity and the chance to get India-held Kashmir and your name will be written in golden letters,” he declared. CGS Aziz also invoked the PM’s Kashmiri descent and lured him with the possibility that “after Quaid, it is a unique opportunity to be remembered as the FatahiKashmir.”

The ISI’s point man for Afghanistan and Kashmir, Lt. Gen Gulzar, also gave a presentation on the Mujahideen. Gulzar recounted the limitations of the Mujahideen, their inability to inflict heavy damage on the Indian Army, capable only of ‘softening’ the environment for the Pakistan Army to move in, but also pointed out that the Mujahideen were not present in the area of the operation. However, the only route available for the movement of Indian weapons, troops and supplies in the Srinagar and Leh area was where the Mujahideen could lay ambushes, attack isolated military posts, blow up bridges and culverts.

Steadfast in their dedication to their institutional ethos, all the men in uniform raised no questions at the presentation. As would later transpire, the top commanders in the ISI were all sceptical of, if not totally opposed to, Op KP. Lt. Gen. Gulzar would subsequently criticise the operation as a “blunder of Himalayan proportions,” born of a temptation that every Commander 10 Corps would face upon finding an “open space.” Emphasising the point, the general would later recall, “When I took over the command of 10 Corps, I had to put my troops on a leash because they would say we can move forward since we are on a height.”

Similarly, years later, the then head of the ISI’s analysis wing Maj Gen Shahid Aziz would write, “An unsound military plan based on invalid assumptions, launched with little preparation and in total disregard to the regional and international environment, was bound to fail. That may well have been the reason for its secrecy. It was a total disaster.”

There was a divided response from the civilian participants. The DGMO pointedly asked Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmad if the Kargil situation could be utilised to “feed into our effort to project Kashmir.” The general was keen to know if diplomatic advantage could be derived from this military operation. Noncommittally, the Foreign Secretary indicated that it might be possible. Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz, however, expressed his reservations on two counts: one, that it was incongruent with the spirit of the Lahore summit [held in February the same year] and, two, that the US would not support the operation.

First doubts

Sartaj Aziz pointedly asked his PM whether the plan the army had made was not contrary to the undertaking in the Lahore Declaration. “Sartaj Aziz Sahib, can we ever take Kashmir through paperwork? We have here an opportunity to take Kashmir,” was a relaxed Nawaz Sharif’s response. By contrast, his foreign minister was perturbed. He was clear that this operation would not help Pakistan get international support for Kashmir.

The other obviously perturbed man in the room was Sharif’s minister for Kashmir and Northern Areas, Majeed Malik. A retired general, Malik grilled the Commander 10 Corps about the logistics for the forward troops. He interrogated how the supplies would reach the troops under “adverse weather conditions and in a hostile environment.” He recalled the hazardous terrain he had personally visited. Lt Gen Mahmud’s curt response was that times had changed, that “our troops are fully covered.” The retired general also asked the DGMO, “What if the Indians do not remove their troops from the valley and instead induct air power in the conflict theatre?” Meanwhile, the silent worrier in the room, Sharif’s defence secretary, also a retired general, opted to not raise any questions. At the conclusion of the formal meeting, he merely whispered to other military officers, “The foreign office will never be able to handle this.”

The prime minister only sought his cabinet members’ opinion regarding the operation; he asked no tough questions himself. Based on whatever he understood regarding the operation, and factoring in the reservations expressed by his ministers, the elected prime minister opted to go along with the fait accompli presented to him by the military. He wanted a resolution of the Kashmir issue and appeared convinced that Op KP would advance that objective. He was perhaps also swayed by the upbeat tone of the DGMO’s ‘victoryalltheway’ presentation and partly by the notion that he was well on his way to becoming the man “whose name will go down in history in golden words as the man who liberated Kashmir.” The prime minister took well to the words of the CGS that for the PM “after the Quaid it is a unique opportunity to be remembered as the FatahiKashmir.”

Flattery was in abundance. The CGS piled on more, “Sir, you will go down in the history of Pakistan as the PM in whose tenure Kashmir was resolved.” In response to this, Nawaz responded, “But then you didn’t tell me when you will fly the flag of Pakistan in Srinagar.” Civilians present registered this as a comment made in jest. Meanwhile, flattery plus the army chief’s claim that, based on the wisdom and experience of his entire professional life, he could “guarantee the success of the operation,” had won Nawaz Sharif’s support for Op KP.

The prime minister had not factored in the clearly stated reservations of his foreign minister and minister for Kashmir and Northern Areas. He was assured of no military reverses, and he chose to believe his military commanders. Interestingly, at no point during the meeting was there any exchange between the PM and the military men signalling Sharif’s prior knowledge of the operation. There was only a passing reference made in the DGMO’s opening comments to the PM’s March approval given at the ISI-convened meeting to “upgrade the freedom movement in Kashmir.”

The most vocal critic, however, was the secretary of defence. The retired general spoke for about 20 minutes, warning that Op KP would either end in all-out war or a total military disaster for Pakistan. ... Implying that the army command had launched Op KP without clearance from the government, the defence secretary emphasised that the army was not an independent body and had to take orders from the government.

As the meeting drew to a close, the CGS proposed a joint prayer for the success of Op KP. The prime minister asked him to lead the joint prayer. With this, the meeting concluded. Most present at the meeting, including those who subsequently became the harshest critics of the operation, believed it would be a success.

Immediately after the meeting, the defense secretary, Lt. Gen (r) Iftikhar Ali Khan, followed the prime minister in his car. It was about 9pm and Sharif was entering the lift in the Prime Minister’s House when Iftikhar, hurriedly following him, said, “Sir, can I talk to you? It is important.” The nation’s chief executive asked him if he could wait till the next morning. The defence secretary persisted. He said he wanted to ask two questions. One: Did the military leadership get his permission to cross the LoC? The prime minister asked him whether the army had actually crossed the LoC. “Didn’t you note all that about ‘hundreds of posts’ and that NLI troops, not freedom fighters, have crossed the LoC?”

Gen Iftikhar continued asking his second question: “Crossing the LoC, Mian Sahib, you know has implications for war?” Late at night, the rather surprised prime minister said, “Why a war? And who has crossed the LoC?” He was told that about five to six hundred square kilometres of Indian territory and hundreds of posts had been occupied. The prime minister instructed the defence secretary to explain the situation to his minister the next morning.

Sinking in

The next morning, 12 hours after the top military command had briefed him on Op KP, the prime minister summoned key cabinet members to the PM House. Sharif chaired the meeting, which was attended by Sartaj Aziz, Gen. (r) Majeed Malik, Minister for Religious Affairs Raja Zafarul Haq, Minister for Information Mushahid Hussain and the defense secretary. The defence secretary registered his concerns, warning that escalation would be inevitable and the “Indians would not take it lying down.”

Gen Iftikhar complained that, without consulting anyone or taking any one in confidence, a “few paper tigers” had started the Kargil adventure. The foreign minister also reported that his ministry was getting panic calls from their missions abroad. Aziz complained that his ministry had no clue about this operation. Malik protested that he was Minister for Kashmir Affairs and he was shocked that he had not been taken into confidence. After hearing these outpourings, the prime minister contacted the army chief.

The army chief arrived at the PM House within an hour. There were only three people present at the time of this crucial moment of the Kargil crisis: the PM, the defence secretary, and the army chief. The PM asked Musharraf, “Did you cross the LoC?” Musharraf responded, “Yes, sir, I did.” “And on whose authority?” queried the prime minister. The army chief was quick to respond, “On my own responsibility and if you now order, sir, I will order the troops’ withdrawal.”

Nawaz Sharif turned to his defence secretary and said, “Did you see? He has accepted his responsibility!” Sharif, perhaps visualising himself as the ‘liberator’ of Kashmir, added, “Since the army is part of the government, from today onwards we will support the army.” After this rather brief meeting, the army was to get the complete support of the country’s leadership.

The public message at this stage from all stakeholders, in Islamabad, Rawalpindi and abroad, was identical: the international community must rein in India. The same day, the prime minister said Pakistan was committed to dialogue with India. On May 19, the COAS Gen Pervez Musharraf said Indian violations of the LoC would be taken seriously. On May 20, in Baku, at the Council of Ministers Conference, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Siddiq Kanju, asked the world community to help resolve Kashmir. On May 21, Pakistan’s newly-appointed ambassador to France, Shahryar Khan, assured his hosts that Pakistan was involved in “serious talks” with India.

Meanwhile, on the policy front, the prime minister, aided by his key advisers, made important decisions. After the May 17 meeting, at an informal huddle between the prime minister and his trusted men, Shahbaz Sharif, Gen Iftikhar and Chaudhry Nisar, the decision was taken to support the army. The three said that Nawaz Sharif should institutionalise the issue and bring it to the DCC. Several formal meetings were subsequently held. The informal consultations with his trusted men also continued. On May 23, a highlevel meeting was held between the prime minister, the COAS and the CGS to discuss Kargil.

In fact, once the cover blew from Op KP, the government sought regular military updates from the Kargil clique. The Kargil planners, too, were keen for a political buyin to Op KP. The GHQ organised briefings for the president, senators and parliamentarians, which included special prayer sessions for the success of the operation. At one of the prayer sessions at the ISI headquarters, led by the CGS Gen. Aziz, the Minister for the Interior Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain was also present.

Stunned at Hotel Scheherazade

The prime minister sought an assessment of the situation from his senior diplomatic team before the Defense Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) meeting scheduled for the end of May. Accordingly, Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz convened a high-level meeting at the Foreign Office, formerly the grand hotel Scheherazade, to discuss the military and diplomatic developments. The participants of the May 23 meeting included senior Pakistan Muslim League leader Raja Zafarul Haq, Minister for Petroleum Chaudhry Nisar, Secretary Defence Lt. Gen. Iftikhar Ali Khan, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Siddiq Kanju, Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmad Khan, Additional Secretary Prime Minister’s Secretariat Tariq Fatemi, Additional Secretary UN Riaz Mohammad Khan, COAS Gen Pervez Musharraf, CGS Lt. Gen Aziz, DirectorGeneral ISI Lt. Gen Ziauddin, Commander 10 Corps Lt. Gen Mahmud, deputy Vice Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Aliuddin, and Vice Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Abdul Aziz Mirza.

The briefing was given by Gen Aziz. Aziz said we did this to interdict the Siachen road, thereby forcing India to solve the Kashmir issue. Most of the civilian participants realised the scale of Op KP for the first time. They asked probing questions regarding the objectives of the operation. The army chief was asked about the objectives of Op KP and Pakistan military’s ability to retain the territory occupied across the LoC. The confident army chief’s response was, “We can defend every inch of our own territory and we are firmly entrenched in the positions we are holding in Kargil.”

There were many critics of the operation. For example, many questions came from Majeed Malik, who had himself commanded this area as a corps commander and, earlier on, as division commander. He said that, if Pakistan had to interdict this road, it could have been done from lower heights instead of taking our troops to the Kargil peaks, where the weather would be their worst enemy. Malik pointed especially to the difficulty of maintaining supply lines for the troops. The worried elderly Raja Zafarul Haq nearly reprimanded the Kargil planners for not taking others in the government into confidence if their objective were to highlight the Kashmir issue. All future action must now follow proper consultation, he emphasised.

The consensus among senior navy and air force officers was that opening of new fronts by India could not be ruled out. They asked why they had not been consulted earlier since any defence plan in case of Indian retaliation had to be an integrated armed forces defense plan. Criticism kept piling up. The deputy air chief also wondered, “After all, what will we achieve from all this?” CGS Aziz’s response was that, by applying pressure on the main supply artery NH1, India would be forced to the negotiating table on Kashmir.

Senior Foreign Office officials in the meeting warned that this operation would be indefensible on global forums. Additional Secretary UN Riaz Mohammad Khan categorically stated, “If it comes to the UNSC [UN Security Council], our position will be undercut.” The Chinese along with other UNSC members would simply ask Pakistan to respect the LoC and vacate the areas occupied across the LoC in Indian Occupied Kashmir, he told those gathered. Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmad expressed concern regarding the possible expansion of the conflict and told the participants, “I cannot guarantee that India will not attack on the international borders.” The foreign secretary cautioned the army against repeating the miscalculation made prior to the 1965 Operation Gibraltar, when the key military and civilian officials had guaranteed that India would not retaliate across the international border. The confident army chief dispelled these concerns and maintained, “We can defend every inch of our territory.” Discussions bordered on being polemical rather than strategic. One of the generals asserted, “Whatever we may say here, our animosity with India is eternal.”

Those diplomats with an institutional memory of Kashmir questioned if the Op KP-related discussion could actually help to highlight Kashmir at the UN. Seasoned diplomat Riaz Mohammad Khan pointedly said, “If it is brought to the UN, our position will be undermined.” There had already been discussion within the international community about undermining the sanctity of the LoC. In 1965 and in 1971, when the Kashmir case was taken to the UNSC for discussion, the decision on both occasions was on the ceasefire and not on the Kashmir issue. In the case of Kargil too, had the matter been taken to the UNSC, it would have called for withdrawal and led to the further strengthening of the LoC. The army insisted that the line was fuzzy and in some places the Mujahideen were also involved in the fighting. When asked by one of the foreign office officials how the Mujahideen could fight so valiantly against the wellequipped Indian army, the army spokesperson Rashid Qureshi said, “Because the Indians from the plains are not acclimatised and they die!”

At the conclusion of the meeting, the three ministers — Sartaj Aziz, Majeed Malik and Raja Zafarul Haq — held a postmortem of the DCC meeting in Sartaj Aziz’s office. There prevailed a feeling among these experienced men that the operation was likely to cause serious military and diplomatic problems. Yet, sudden withdrawal, leading to high casualties, was not an option. Indeed, with the army already claiming it a success, who would bell the cat of asking the Kargil clique to withdraw? Nevertheless, Zafarul Haq believed the deficiencies in Op KP had to be addressed. The planners would interpret recommendations regarding the operation as a signal to continue. The civilian government may be held responsible in case Op KP failed. What followed could also be an army takeover.

The three senior ministers then shared their concerns and conclusions with the prime minister, who agreed with them on the need to take the navy and air force on board in all future discussions on Op KP.

Whose war is it anyway?

Around this time, Pakistan’s Military Intelligence (MI) also got active. Its Director-General, Major Gen Ehsanul Haq, invited the military attachés of Western countries to GHQ for a briefing on Op KP. The DG MI and the DGMO conducted the briefing followed by a question-and-answer session. The defence attachés left the briefing with the understanding that these senior Pakistani military officials had acknowledged that Pakistani troops were involved and it was not a Mujahideen operation. The Western military attachés, including the American and the British, reported back to their embassies and subsequently to their headquarters that fighting was actually taking place on the Indian side of the LoC. Publicly, however, Islamabad still maintained that only the Mujahideen were involved. The media, based on Western embassy backgrounders, reported that the DG MI had acknowledged that there were Pakistani troops across in the Indian side of the LoC. Interestingly at this time, Islamabad’s own diplomats, stationed even at the headquarters, were groping in the dark for information about the reported flareup along the LoC.

After the MI briefing, the US military attaché in the embassy informed his ambassador William Milam that fighting was going on on the Indian side of LoC. The American information until then was that it was a group of Mujahideen. The military attaché had attended the briefing at the GHQ given by the DG MI and the DGMO. Following the briefing, the attaches snooped around for more information. The military attaché met his counterpart while the political attaché met with retired military officers. With confirmation that Pakistani troops had crossed the LoC, the “really excited US diplomats” told Washington about it. The US State Department responded by issuing its first statement, calling upon Pakistan to withdraw its troops.

This statement prompted the Additional Secretary of the Foreign Office Tariq Altaf to call in Ambassador Milam and ask why Washington had accused Pakistan of fighting across the LoC. The US ambassador informed him that it was the Pakistan Army itself who had given them this information. Upon hearing Milam’s response, it seemed that “Altaf had been kicked and his face fell”, according to US ambassador Milam himself.

Following the AltafMilam exchange, Foreign Minister Aziz called the DG MI and complained about the faux pas he had committed. The MI chief said he had been misquoted. Nevertheless, the stories of the defense attaché regarding Pakistani troop presence remained in circulation.

Clueless cabinet

Towards the end of May, the prime minister decided to take his cabinet into confidence on Op Kp. He convened a cabinet meeting at which the DirectorGeneral ISI Lt. General Ziauddin Butt was to present a briefing. Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmad and Defence Secretary Iftikhar were also present. Although in his private meetings with the prime minister the DG ISI was critical about Op KP, at this cabinet meeting he presented broad details of the operation. He talked of the freedom fighters and held that the operation was progressing satisfactorily. The intelligence chief, however, opted to not share his own assessment of the operation. Similarly, the foreign secretary, who had expressed some reservations about Op KP at earlier meetings, at this cabinet meeting opted to pick no holes. He gave no hint of the operation being a potential source of any diplomatic disadvantage for Pakistan, and, instead, indicated that some benefit could be derived from it.

A barrage of hard questions followed Butt’s briefing. The majority present, however, was pleased with the progress reported on Op KP. The Minister for Water and Power Gohar Ayub praised the army for doing a “great job” and advocated support for the operation. Minister of Culture, Sports, Tourism and Youth Affairs Sheikh Rashid Ahmad also praised the army, while the minister for religious affairs said, “The time is now ripe for jihad.” There were also critics of Op KP. These included Minister for Communications Raja Nadir Pervez and Minister for Health Makhdoom Javed Hashmi.

The most vocal critic, however, was the secretary of defence. The retired general spoke for about 20 minutes, warning that Op KP would either end in all-out war or a total military disaster for Pakistan. ... Implying that the army command had launched Op KP without clearance from the government, the defence secretary emphasised that the army was not an independent body and had to take orders from the government. He was also critical of placing jihad as the central element in Pakistan’s defence structure. He wondered, “Why have we after 52 years realised the importance of jihad?” The defence secretary’s brother, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, also raised hard questions. The thrust of Nisar’s remarks was that based on his information, Pakistan was heading for a military disaster in Kargil-Drass. “Who had ordered the operation?” the minister rhetorically asked the military presenters. Nevertheless, Nisar’s caution was against an operation already underway.

Some altercation among powerful men ensued. Reacting to the defence secretary’s presentation, the visibly distraught Gohar Ayub asked why the defence secretary was opposing the plan of the army chief. Sheikh Rashid also queried why the defence secretary was revealing “secrets.” … The prime minister called the meeting to an end. He was now facing a divided house within and mounting pressures from the outside. The Kargil planners, meanwhile, saw no reason to pay heed to any concerns expressed in the cabinet meeting.

Reprinted with permission from the author

Nasim Zehra is a national security specialist and a well-known journalist

Published in Dawn, EOS, July 1st, 2018