From Kargil to cricket

  • Musharraf’s legacy?

Just when one thought events inside Dubai International Stadium couldn’t get any worse with India pounding the national cricket side, one saw Pervez Musharraf in the VIP box enjoying the Asia Cup clash.

This is a man under trial for very tangible treason, with accusations of being a traitor owing to the abrogation of the Constitution, not doing an iota of damage to his appearances on local TV channels where spineless – and shameless – journalists bow down to him.

Enjoying cricket while refusing to appear for this treason trial, or even stay in Pakistan, citing “health reasons” is the former Army Chief’s way of giving the Pakistani legal system the finger and symbolising the claim that the Constitution will remain under the boot.

Those still under any doubt as to just how Musharraf became the military ruler of this country would be well advised to read Nasim Zehra’s From Kargil to the Coup: Events that shook Pakistan released earlier this year.

The work is a compilation of interviews of those closest to the events and those with the knowledge as to how the abovementioned events transpired. Given that the work for the book started in the immediate aftermath of the operation From Kargil to the Coup is the culmination of two decades of research and groundwork.

The book is a detailed narration of how the Kargil ‘clique’ got involved in a rash operation with the age-old delusion of liberating Kashmir through warfare. This ‘clique’ was led by then Army Chief Musharraf, who was joined by Generals Aziz Khan and Javed Hassan.

The Kargil Operation wasn’t just a military embarrassment for Pakistan, it undid the progress Islamabad and New Delhi had made to ensure improved bilateral relations

Once Nawaz Sharif signed the withdrawal agreement in Washington on July 4, the army’s claims of the mujahideen sticking to their posts in the region sunk.

What is important to note in this unmitigated disaster of an operation was the fact that not only was the civilian leadership unaware of what was indubitably an illegal manoeuvre, but the air force, navy and even the ISI weren’t informed about it.

Nawaz was being given briefings on the army’s plans vis-à-vis Kashmir without actually specifying what they were. And given the then premier’s reluctance to engage in any escalation of military operations – especially at a time when peace talks with his counterpart Atal Bihari Vajpayee were progressing – Musharraf decided the be reckless and imprudent on his own.

Of course, given the institutional imbalances the Army Chief never needs the Prime Minister to be on board, and any ‘briefing’ in this regard is to add layers of domestic legitimacy to what inevitably are internationally illegitimate operations. But the events illustrate the civil-military division in the country and delineate the trail that led from the Kargil operation to the coup.

Hence, in addition to the events that led to Kargil and what transpired during the operation itself, the book also narrates events leading to the military coup of October 12, the 19th anniversary of which is just a couple of weeks away.

In addition to Musharraf’s recklessness and false bravado, what is consistent throughout the book is Nawaz Sharif’s lack of wisdom. Just like Musharraf gravely overestimated his chances along and across the Line of Control, Nawaz did the same vis-à-vis the exercise of his own authority against the army leadership.

This is something the former premier continues to struggle with two decades later. But that is more a damning verdict on the institutional power dynamics and lack of unity among the politicians than Nawaz’s delusions.

The Kargil Operation wasn’t just a military embarrassment for Pakistan, it undid the progress Islamabad and New Delhi had made to ensure improved bilateral relations, without which any solution for Kashmir – which, at the end of the day, is the touted reason for the army’s continued misadventures – is impossible. Furthermore, the operation also ensured that Pakistan would spend another decade under military rule.

That is a nutshell is Musharraf’s legacy as first the army chief and then military dictator of Pakistan. The fact that he can enjoy Indo-Pak cricket clashes at a time when the two countries continue to exchange jibes that can be traced to 1999, and beyond, and when critics of dam fund are being dubbed traitors underscores irony that only Pakistani institutional paradoxes can conjure.