Military & Aerospace

Pakistani Kargil Planners – How could they be so naïve !!!
Star Rating Loader Please wait...
Issue Net Edition | Date : 26 Jul , 2018

Gen Pervez Musharraf (Top-Left)- the then Chief of Pakistan Army Staff; Lt Gen Mohammad Aziz - the then Chief of General Staff (Top-Right), Maj Gen Javed Hassan (Bottom-Left) - the then FCNA (Force Command Northern Areas), and 10-Corps commander Lt Gen Mahmud Ahmad (Bottom-Right)

“Sir based on the wisdom and experience of my entire professional career, I could guarantee the success of the operation“.

This is what Gen Musharraf said to his PM Nawaz Sharif in a meeting on 17th May 1999 in Ojhri Camp near Islamabad. The projected agenda of the meeting was to brief Sharif on the status of `upgraded Kashmiri struggle’ but the real agenda was to use this meeting as a proof of keeping the political leadership involved in the Kargil war – Operation KOH-e-PAIMA (Op KP).

It was considered that the vast glaciated territory beyond NJ9842 was not suitable for inhabitation and inaccessible, hence beyond NJ9842 the ceasefire line was delimited as thence north to the glaciers.

Let’s go back in history and see how it all started and why?

Brief History

Roots of Op Koh Paima can be traced to the Siachen Conflict. To give a brief history, after the ceasefire on 1st Jan 1949, the Ceasefire Line was demarcated till the Point NJ 9842 dividing the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan (Pakistani Occupied Kashmir – PoK). It was considered that the vast glaciated territory beyond NJ9842 was not suitable for inhabitation and inaccessible, hence beyond NJ9842 the ceasefire line was delimited as thence north to the glaciers.

Neither India nor Pakistan was supposed to setup any post or allow anyone to visit that area. But in the 1970s, Pakistan started showing the entire Siachen glacier as a part of PoK and their maps started drawing a line joining NJ9842 with Aksai Chin as shown in map. While India denied several international mountaineer’s expedition requests, Pakistan started allowing them in the late 70s.

After few protests, India moved swiftly in 1984 and occupied the Saltoro Ridge in Operation Meghdoot, which is the longest running operation in the history of modern armies – it has been running for last 34 years!

Pakistani Army tried hard but could not dislodge Indian Army from the glacier. They planned a different operation designed to force Indiato vacate the Siachen Glacier. As per the plan, strategically located peaks dominating Indian highway National Highway-1A (NH-1A) were to be captured so that supply line to Siachen Glacier can be chocked and force Indian Army to withdraw from the glacier.

It was first presented to Gen Zia Ul Haq, who was the third dictator of Pakistan. He had his hands full with Afghan Jihad and did not want to do any misadventure in Kashmir. He rejected the plan. But the plan was never trashed and was war-gamed in National Defence University, Pakistan.

Because the operation had not gone through the regular army process, it was not properly planned and peaks were captured randomly. Only Musharraf’s gang of Four and the participant units knew what was afoot.

When Gen Musharraf was Director General Military Operations (DGMO), he war-gamed and presented the plan to Gen Jahagir Karamat & the then PM Benazir Bhutto.The plan was rejected again.

The plan reborn again when Gen Musharraf became the Army Chief.

Operation Koh-e-Paima  (Op KP)

`A Gang of Four` (as they call it in Pakistan) prepared and executed this operation of silently occupying peaks in Kargil and Dras sector on the Indian side of the Line of Control (LoC). They called it Op KP. These four were: –

• Gen Parvez Musharaff – Chief of Pakistan Army Staff

• Lt. Gen Aziz – Chief of General Staff

• Lt. Gen Mehmud – 10 Corp Commander, Rawalpindi

• Maj Gen Javed Hasan – Force Commander Northern Area

On 18 Dec 1998, Capt Nadeem, Capt Ali and Hawaldar Lalikjaan (Nishan-e-Haider) of Northern Light Infantry were sent across the LoC for reconnaissance (recce). They were not given any objective for the Recce mission. Recce party came back with general information about the snow-capped terrain. Subsequently, Northern Light Infantry* (NLI) units, 31 Azad Kashmir, 24 Sindh units were sent to occupy peaks overlooking Indian NH-1A.

Because the operation had not gone through the regular army process, it was not properly planned and peaks were captured randomly. Only Musharraf’s gang of Four and the participant units knew what was afoot. Directorate of Military Operations or Directorate of Analysis or even ISI had no clue. Applying normal military tactical thinking would have forced Pakistan Army to capture peaks overlooking Zojila Pass as well. Nonetheless, by Dec 1998 Pak troops from 3NLI, 5NLI, 12NLI,13 NLI, Azad Kashmir Regiment and Sindh Regiment had come 7 KMs inside Indian territory and had made a number of sangars (a temporary fortification constructed with stones).

Lt. Gen. Mahmud finally proposed to call this operation Op KP, same was accepted and the meeting ended with a formal approval.

Involving Pak Army

16th Jan, 1999

Then came the moment to take formal approval for `record keeping` and Pak DGMO was asked to give Op KP an underpinning. On 16th Jan 1999, Gen Musharraf chaired a meeting in Military Operations Directorate. Col Nissar Ahmad presented the 15 pages long plan. DGMO Lt. Gen Tauqir Zia, who heard it for the first time, was least interested but knew that plan was already in progress.

Noticing the same, Musharraf asked if the operation will not turn into a disaster. Maj Gen Javed Hassan was quick to offer his neck, “If anything goes wrong, my neck is available.” His Commander, Lt. Gen Mahmud did not want to be left behind, said “Why yours? My neck will be on the line since I have cleared it.” And showing the General ship of the highest order, Musharraf said “No, it would not be your neck, it would be my neck.”

And when the time came, they put their PM’s neck on the line.

Lt. Gen. Mahmud finally proposed to call this operation Op KP, same was accepted and the meeting ended with a formal approval.

Not everyone was Naïve: –

Lt. Gen (R) Shahid Aziz was a Major general then and was Director General  Analysis  ,during a briefing in National Military Operations Center, he raised objections to the bed rock of the Op KP. Aziz informed Gen Musharraf that cutting NH-1A will not cut off Siachin Supply line – the very objective of the operation. Musharraf asked Aziz to discuss with GS Staff to clear his doubts. Aziz sat with GI staff and he proved how Indian could continue the supply to Siachin using Manali-Rohtang road or Leh based airstrip. But his objections were brushed aside as the peaks had already been occupied. Aziz later called it “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.”

On 28 March 1999, Gen Musharraf and Brig Masood Aslam flew acrossed the LoC in a helicopter, came 11 KM deep inside Indian territory and spent a night in a post `Zikria Mustaqar`.

Maj Gen Kayani (Later Pak Army COAS from 2007 to 2013) was commanding 12 Division under Lt. Gen Mahmud (10 Corp). In a meeting at Corp Commander’s house, Kayani expressed a different opinion. He believed that NH-1A is of great strategic importance for Indian and Indian Army will not attach anywhere else but the captured peaks and will attack with its complete might.

But the Gang paid no heed.

On 28 March 1999, Gen Musharraf and Brig Masood Aslam flew acrossed the LoC in a helicopter, came 11 KM deep inside Indian territory and spent a night in a post `Zikria Mustaqar`.The post was held by 12 NLI troops commanded by Col Amjad Shabir. Indian Army Chief Gen V.K. Singh also mentioned this incident in his biography – Courage and Conviction.

“Involving” Civilian leadership

17th May 1999

This important briefing was given to PM Sharif, Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz, Secretary Defence Lt. Gen. (R) Iftikhar Ali Khan, Minister for Kashmir and Northern Areas Lt. Gen (R) Majeed Malik, the Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmad, and PM’s Principal Secretary Saeed Mehdi.

Indian media was giving reports of an increased number of infiltration moves all across the LoC and was claiming that Pakistan had again stabbed India in back. Nawaz and his colleuges came for a briefing on regular mujahideen activities. They had no clue that they were about to be briefed about something else. Gen Musharraf used this briefing to fool the civilian leadership.

Pakistan Army’s DGMO Lt Gen Tauqir Zia gave the detailed presentation to the civilian leadership and it was a bag full of wishful thinking and conclusions. As one of the senior journalist of Defence Analyst of Pakistan – Ehjaz Ahmad said `They had no logic whatsoever`. We will see how?

Gen Javed Hasan believed that Indians only talked of a defensive battle…

Gen Zia explained that the first phase of the five phased operation had been completed and he showed a number of position that had been occupied. He continued, “In the second phase, `freedom fighters` will be infiltrated in Jammu, Leh and Ladakh, who will start an insurgency in those areas. “

In the third phase, the General said “Indian Army would panic and rush to above mentioned areasto tackle the `Mujhahideens` leaving the Kashmir valley vulnerable.“(Not sure why it was included as a third phase of the operation. It was clearly not a course of action but purely a wishful conclusion of how the Indian Army will react.) In Phase 4, Pak would infiltrate large number of mujahideens into the valley, who would block the Manihaal Pass and Zojila Pass and occupy the Kashmir valley (Again a wishful conclusion) and in phase 5, Gen Zia proudly said, the Indians would be on their knees begging for negotiations and Pakistan would be able to dictate its terms.

Clearly Pak Army somehow managed NOT to learn anything from the history. Ironically, the root cause of 1965 Indo-Pak war was Operation Gibraltar, that Pak Army launched in Aug 1965 with same exact Wishful conclusions. And they did it again in 1999! How could they be so naïve to have concluded that they would capture peaks, passes and entire Kashmir Valley and Indian side would simply watch them doing it?

Gen Tauqir Zia gave the answer in that briefing. He shared a few assumptions with the audience that was the basis of the Op KP and would also guarantee its success. These were: –

•  Each captured peak will be an impregnable fortress.

•  Indians lack the will to fight Pak Army head on. (In the 1960s, somehow Pak Army’s leadership convinced itself that Indian Army (`Army of hindu baniyas` as they called) is no match to the Islamic soldier of the Pak Fauz. Nothing changed since the 1960s. The mastermind of Op KP, Gen Javed Hasan believed that Indians only talked of a defensive battle and they were not even capable of that. When an officer expressed concerns about a tough Indian response, Javed Hasan’s unprofessional, prejudiced refrain was: “The timidIndian will never fight the battle.”1)

Lt. Gen. (R) Majid even warned – What if Indians do not remove troops from the valley and deploy their Air Force? But the warning fell on deaf ears.

•  There would be no considerable pressure on Pakistan from the international community. Rather, because of the nuclear tests of 1998 and South East Asia being the nuclear flashpoint, international community will force India to come to the negotiation table.

So they prepared a flawed plan based on wishful assumptions and drew wishful conclusions. Well, history repeats itself when men repeat their mistakes.

It is important to note that Gen Zia never said that the positions captured in phase 1 were actually across the LOC. LOC was not even clearly demarcated on the map!Of course he did not mention that Pak army had captured dozens of peaks 8-10 KMs inside Indian territory across the LOC.

The briefing was followed by a salvo of flattering remarks for the PM – “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 to get India-held Kashmir. Your name will be written in golden letters,” and “after Quaid, it is a unique opportunity to be remembered as the Fatah-i-Kashmir.”And then came General Musharraf’s personal guarantee (opening sentence of the article) that flattered the PM, only to get deceived later.

People who raised concerns were Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz and Minister for Kashmir and Northern Areas Lt. Gen (R) Malik. Malik, who had served in that difficult mountainous area. He asked about logistics support and how Pak army would maintain the supply chain under adverse weather conditions and hostile environment. Musharraf’s blue eyed boy Lt. Gen. Mahmud casually answered that the deployed troops were fully covered. Time proved him totally wrong.

Lt. Gen. (R) Majid even warned – What if Indians do not remove troops from the valley and deploy their Air Force? But the warning fell on deaf ears.

Panicked Nawaz asked “Why a war? And who has crossed the LoC?” Iftikhar then told him the real truth of the briefing… Nawaz asked if he has crossed the LoC. Musharraf replied “Yes, sir, I did.”

Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz raised the concern that the USA and International community will react adversely because the OP KP was in sharp contrast to the spirit of the Lahore Declaration signed by Vajpayee and Shariff on 21st Feb 1999. This time Shariff came forward to defence the OP KP and asked Aziz,“Aziz Sahib, can we take Kashmir through Paperwork? Here we have an opportunity.“Clearly, the flattering had started working.

Nawaz Shariff still had no clue that the Pak Army was across the LoC. He was still dreaming of wining Kashmir through proxy war and Mujahideens. But by the time, PM’s caravan came back home in the late evening, Defence Secretary Lt. Gen (r) Iftikhar Ali Khanhad figured out Pak Army’s intension and was sure that the Army was up to something big! He stopped Nawaz at around 9PM and asked if they can talk about something very important? Nawaz asked if it can wait till next morning. But Defence Secretary asked if he (PM) gave permission to the Army to cross the LoC? To a clueless Nazwa, he asked again, “Didn’t you note all those ‘hundreds of posts’ and that NLI troops, not freedom fighters, have crossed the LoC?Crossing the LoC, Mian Sahib, you know has implications for war?”

Panicked Nawaz asked “Why a war? And who has crossed the LoC?”

Iftikhar then told him the real truth of the briefing. Surprised and panicked, Nawaz asked for a cabinet meeting next morning. Iftikhar gave him and others a detailed briefing on the `briefing` a day before.

Nawaz summoned his Army Chief and Gen Musharraf reported at PM house within one hour. There were just three of them there – the PM Nawaz, Army Chief Musharraf and Defence Secretary  Iftikhar. Nawaz asked if he has crossed the LoC. Musharraf replied “Yes, sir, I did.” The PM asked again “And on whose authority?”. The chief responded, “On my own responsibility and if you now order, sir, I will order the troops’ withdrawal.”

India lost 527 brave soldiers and an exact number of brave Pakistani soldiers killed or wounded is not known.

This was a watershed moment. Had Nawaz thought rationally and responsibly, he could have tried to revert all the wrong doing. Instead he turned to Iftikhar and said, “Did you see? He has accepted his responsibility! Since the army is part of the government, from today onwards we will support the army.” Perhaps the flattery remarks of being Fateh-i-Kashmir were still fresh in his mind.

Rest is history. India lost 527 brave soldiers and an exact number of brave Pakistani soldiers killed or wounded is not known. This number ranges from 400 to 2000, depending on which source you pick. All those brave lives lost or disabled because few believed that they can do it and get away with it. They actually got away.

*Northern Light Infantry was a para-military force working under Pakistan’s Interior ministry but operationally, it was under Pak Army’s command. Its officers were from regular Pak Army and Force Commander Northern Area (FCNA) used to be its Director-General. After the Kargil war, Gen Musharraf made NLI a regular infantry regiment of the Pak Army.

Bibliography

•  “From KargilTo The Coup: Events That Shook Pakistan” by Nasim Zehra.

•  Witness to Blunder by Col (R) Ashfaq Hussain who was Deputy Director of the ISPR (Inter-Services Personal Relations)

•  Ye Khamoshi Kaha Tak by Lt. Gen. (R) Aziz.

Rate this Article
Star Rating Loader Please wait...
The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Sumit Walia

is an IT Specialist. He is also a military history buff who continues to explore & research various facets of the Indian Military history in his spare time.

More by the same author

Post your Comment

2000characters left

3 thoughts on “Pakistani Kargil Planners – How could they be so naïve !!!

More Comments Loader Loading Comments