MUSHARRAF: BEGINNING OF THE END (?)

By

Anil Athale.

Coordinator Inpad & former Jt. Dir. War Studies Division, Min of Defence.

 

 

Winston Churchill, was present at the battle of El Alamein in North African desert in Nov.1942 when the British 8th  Army under General Montgomery, decisively defeated German General Rommel’s Afrika Corps. This was the first British victory of the Second World War. Displaying his characteristic wit, Churchill had remarked “ This is certainly not the end, not even beginning of the end but end of the beginning !” But Musharraf’s capers in the US ( hoopla surrounding his autobiographical ‘In the Line of Fire’) tempts one to come to the conclusion that it is indeed the beginning of the End for the Pakistani dictator. The end may take time but it is no longer question of whether but when.

 

It is becoming crystal clear that sole aim of General Mushraff has been to get maximum publicity and thereby profits. Essentially he seems to be preparing himself for an inevitable life in exile, most likely in the US. I am reminded of a chance encounter I had in Washington DC in 1991. I had to take a taxi cab and the driver appeared to be distinguished looking Middle Easterner. As we got talking the gentleman told me that he was an Iranian ex-four star General and Chief of Police during the Shah’s regime. On the  footpaths of Washington one also comes across small kiosks, run mostly by Vietnamese………Does anyone remember a certain General Nguyen Khanh, General Nguyen Ky ( Air Force General who made Ray Ban glasses very popular amongst us the impressionable young officers and got us into trouble as in conservative Indian Army, wearing dark glasses while in uniform was strict no- no) and finally Nguyen Van Thieu ( President South Vietnam 1967-1975) ? Like Musharraf, Thieu also made it to the ‘Time’ cover several times! If Musharraf wishes to avoid the fate of the Thieu’s and Ky’s of this world it is perfectly understandable. One should not grudge a poor General Musharraf his attempt to provide for post retirement period. After all, in exile, he is unlikely to get his service pension.

 

Comments on Lies in Musharraf’s Book.

 

Having clearly seen the motive behind publicity of his book, ideally one would have liked to just ignore the book. Yet since the Indian media has gone ga ga over it, it is felt that some of the points made by him need a rebuttal. But one is simply amazed at the cheek of the Indian media in general and TV channels in particular. Some time ago the media similarly made a gangster ( Abu Salem) into a virtual cult figure by saturation coverage. Even earlier, the media coverage of gagster Dawood’s daughter’s wedding with cricketer Jawed Miadad’s son was similarly obscene. Can one imagine American media similarly covering Osama Bin Laden’s son/daughter’s wedding? The part two of this article is provoked not so much by Musharraf but naïve Indian media. One only hopes to set the record straight.

 

Unfortunately Musharraf is not Pinocchio or else he would have had a nose that is atleast a kilometre long! Come to think of it, if that were to happen his book would have sold even more! Frankly I have not read the book so these comments are essentially based on the extracts published elsewhere and Musharraf’s own statements.

 

I am not competent to comment on many issues that he has raised for it falls outside my domain and I do not have authentic information. My comments are based on some known historical facts, military logic and my own experience as a Commando instructor qualified Infantry soldier, unlike Musharraf  who is from Artillery and has bookish  experience/knowledge of infantry warfare in Mountains.

 

One Pakistani equal to ten Indians

 

Musharraf has made a statement that during Kargil war, a few thousand Pakistani soldiers ‘held back ‘ one to one and half lakh Indian soldiers. The implication being that the Pakistani mythology of one Pakistani being equal to ten Indians was validated by Kargil skirmish. It is true that India had indeed mobilised a large force in Kashmir during that time. My own educated guess is that we were possibly getting ready to attack and capture Skardu, Muzzafarabad and Kotli, should Pakistan decide to escalate the conflict. Musharraf would not be unaware that even in 1987/88, during the ‘Brass tacks’ crisis India had toyed with an idea of capturing Skardu. These objectives are well within our capability and the one and half lakh soldiers were mobilised for that contingency and NOT for retaking Kargil posts. But why blame Musharraf alone, even our own great CAG ( Controller Auditor General) in his report on Kargil had taken the army to task for importing tank ammunition under emergency provision when the fighting was in mountains.! The Babu can be forgiven his ignorance about matters military since he could not understand that we were ready to fight not just in Kargil mountains but in plains of Punjab as well. Surely Musharraf is expected to know better and realise that the mobilisation of lakhs of troops was not for retaking Kargil heights but to deal a death blow to Pakistan. But on that basis to claim that mere thousand Pakistanis ‘held back’ lakhs of Indian soldiers is ingenious.

 

Kargil border skirmish ( NOT war) was essentially a company commander’s battle. The mountainous terrain with narrow foot paths as the only way, number of troops used at any given time was very limited and never more than a battalion of infantry. It is to the credit of the tenacity of Indian soldiers and extreme personal bravery that we captured these mountain heights. Incidently, in the 1947, 1965 and 1971 Indo Pak wars, Indian infantry has always had a better of Pakistani infantry. Be it Kargil heights ( captured thrice) , Haji Pir pass, Gittian, Mohammad Ni Gali, Raja et al. It is time Musharraf read an account of the 1965 war written by Russel Brine, a Britisher. The minor reverses that we suffered were mostly in plains where Pakistan, thanks to the generous American aid, always had better tanks and better guns. For instance, India got the 155 mm Bofors guns only in 1986-87, while the Pakistani artillery had 155 mm heavy guns right since 1964. So was the case with Patton tanks vs India’s old Centurion’s and Sherman’s.

 

The shoe is on the other foot, during the Bangladesh war there were many instances when  over thousand Pakistani soldiers surrendered to hundred Indians. In many instances there not even enough soldiers to guard the prisoners. Seems the General with short memory has forgotten the humiliation of the much vaunted Pak army when 93,000 soldiers surrendered en mass.

 

Insult at Agra.

 

Musharraf has mentioned in his book that he ( and Vajpayee) were insulted in Agra. Actually he has forgotten the episode in Delhi where Indian Air Chief had not saluted Musharraf. It must be clearly understood that  the Indian armed forces have a healthy respect for the fighting prowess of the Pakistani army, we do not think that one Indian is equal to ten Pakis. But the same is not true of the Pakistani army’s moral fibre. An army that went on campaign of rape and pillage in Bangladesh and one that regularly goes back on its solemn oath of loyalty to constitution deserves no respect. In addition there is an unwritten convention amongst the soldiers world wide to respect seniority and rank, irrespective of nationality.

 

Musharraf, commissioned in 1964 has been way junior to the Indian armed forces chiefs, his senior by several years. By not saluting to his junior, Air Chief was only following a world wide tradition. Musharraf’s argument that he was a President or CEO holds no water as he was ‘self appointed’. It is like comparing cheese with chalk or self styled Field Marshal Ayub Khan with Field Marshal Sam Maneckshaw, who had earned his rank. Coming from a soldier who dangles a cigarette from his mouth, in uniform and handles a pistol like a cowboy in presence of his Prime Minister, has neither any sense of honour nor discipline.

 

Revelations and Allegations.

 

Much media space has been wasted over General Musharraf’s admission that Pak army was directly involved in Kargil operations. If the readers jog their memory a little, this is true to the pattern of Pakistani history. In 1947 Pakistan insisted that it was a tribal invasion, in 1965 it claimed that it was freedom fighters, in Kargil it again  claimed that it was Mujahideens who were fighting ( Mujahideens who had guns, missiles and helicopters). In any case the Indian army had captured enough documents to show the army presence in Kargil in 1999 itself. So this revelation is a damp squib.

 

But the most hilarious allegation is regarding nuclear technology. The General claims that it is India that ‘stole’ the centrifuge technology for Uranium enrichment from Pakistan. In that unlikely case, we have only stolen from a thief since originally this technology was stolen by AQ Khan from Holland.

 

Musharraf’s book would have sold even more if he could have enlightened the rest of the world as to how a county that does not even make a complete bicycle ( the ball bearings are imported) has managed to make nuclear weapons and even long range missiles!

 

I suppose we would have to wait for an autobiography by AQ Khan to solve that mystery. He may well be inspired to do so now that Musharraf has set a precedent of using his official position to write best sellers. A helpful suggestion to AQ Khan, he could title his book ‘How to build a bomb and save the world’ .