Friday, July 14, 2006

Musharraf & 'National Confidentiality'

In an interview with Business Plus Channel aired last night Musharraf said a great many things (as per usual) but what struck me was his use of a uniquely new concept, which he referred to as ‘national confidentiality’.

This is what Business Plus Channel’s sister newspaper the
Daily Times had to say:

Sounding a note of warning, he said issues relating to Kargil were extremely confidential and of paramount national importance, and these should not be publicised in the way in which the former prime minister [Nawaz Sharif] was doing so consistently.

“I would advise him to talk economically on this issue because it is an issue of great national confidentiality,” he said.

Okay, since the onset of dictatorial power in Pakistan in the 1950s we, the uniformless civilians, have become accustomed to two commonly used words:
  • ‘National Interest’ – which we can broadly translate as something specifically in the interest of the government of the day (this applies to both civilian and military regimes).
  • ‘National Security’, are two words which encompass a whole host of Khaki matters, stretching from our nuclear hardware to more prosaic things like the military purchase of paper clips under our completely unscrutinisable Defence budget.
Having said that, your Blogger now wishes come to some sort understanding of this new term.


As Musharraf openly linked ‘national confidentiality’ to Kargil, let us briefly attempt to re-examine the Kargil conflict from a distantly neutral perspective – so here is what
Wikipedia says about it (with links to its sources and footnotes):
According to India's then army chief Ved Prakash Malik, the infiltration was code named "Operation Badr",[8] and much of the background planning, including construction of logistical supply routes, had been undertaken much earlier. On more than one occasion, the army had given past Pakistani leaders (namely Zia ul Haq and Benazir Bhutto) similar proposals for an infiltration in the Kargil region in the 1980s and 1990s. However the plans had been shelved for fear of drawing the nations into all-out war.[9] [10]

Some analysts believe that the blueprint of attack was reactivated when Pervez Musharraf was appointed chief of army staff in October 1998. In a recent disclosure made by Nawaz Sharif, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, he states that he was unaware of the preparation of the intrusion, and it was an urgent phone call from Atal Bihari Vajpayee, his counterpart in India, that informed him about the situation.[11] Sharif has attributed the plan on Musharraf and "just two or three of his cronies".[11]
According to Hassan Abbas (in his book - Pakistan's Drift Into Extremism: Allah, the Army, and America's War on Terror) the Kargil operation was planned and managed by the Army led by General Musharraf who led a “Gang of Four [generals]” and quotes Pakistan High Commissioner to UK, Maleeha Lodhi as saying: “Even corps commanders and other service chiefs were excluded from the decision-making process.”

It is most likely that Musharraf and his generals, knowing that Nawaz Sharif wasn’t the brightest bulb on the planet, led the then prime minister down the garden path without letting him what really was in store.

Once the Pakistani forces commanded the heights of Kargil the Indians took heavy losses in futile frontal ground assaults. Logic dictated that the only way to deal with the Pakistani forces was for the Indian Military to blockade their supply route. Such a move would have involved the Indian troops crossing the LOC as well as initiating aerial attacks on Pakistan soil – in other words all out war with Pakistan.

Wikipedia then informs us:

Meanwhile, the Indian Navy also readied itself for an attempted blockade of Pakistani ports to cut off supply routes. Later, the-then Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif disclosed that Pakistan was left with just six days of fuel to sustain itself if a full-fledged war had broken out. As Pakistan found itself entwined in a prickly position, the army had covertly planned a nuclear strike on India, the news of which alarmed U.S. President Bill Clinton, resulting in a stern warning to Nawaz Sharif.[13]
Now here is a pertinent quote from US journalist Mary Anne Weaver’s book Pakistan: In the Shadow of Jihad and Afghanistan (Author - Mary Anne Weaver) regarding General Zinni who, then as the head of US Central Command, had been rushed to Pakistan by the Clinton Administration to arrange a ceasefire during the clash at Kargil. Zinni told the author:
…‘the danger of the situation was not fully appreciated, even in Washington. But certainly was on the ground. I think one of the reasons that Musharraf and Nawaz Sharif were glad to see me come was that they had really scared themselves to death’.


When the Kargil conflict is fully documented by future historians I am certain that they will lay the blame for the debacle squarely at Musharraf’s doorstep. Obviously the previous army chiefs who had rejected the plan as being potentially calamitous lacked Musharraf’s action-oriented commando mindset.

Having delved a bit into the Kargil conflict it becomes easier to understand Musharraf's extreme reticence in allowing anyone to re-hash the finer details of the fiasco.

So there you have it, ‘National Confidentiality’ in a nutshell.


Adnan Siddiqi said...

I have more faith on bible than Wikipedia.

Anonymous said...

The US navy invited various speakers from India and Pakistan to share their views on the causes and consequences of the Kargil war. Here is the summary of their findings. Both Pakistani and Indian sources back up wikipedia in that a small group of army officers planned the whole thing.

X --- said...

I have personally made several editorial changes to the wikipedia and im sure you all can too.

With all due respect, i fail to understand why its taken as a supreme source of knowledge worth quoting.

Anonymous said...

inspirex... says: I have personally made several editorial changes to the wikipedia and im sure you all can too.


That is the reason we trust it - because those of us who are experts in a particular field will correct the errors we spot as well supply any references to external sources!

Saeein said...

Well, I do not find this article credible because it is taken from Wikepedia. This is an amazing place for knowledge but its still not credible. I know for a fact the Pakistan army is one the most powerful intelligence unit at work. They were on top at Kargil. Let us not try to change facts. Nawaz Sharif was one of the most bizarre PM of Pakistan.


Onlooker said...

Dear Readers (and commentators)

I have, in recent years, read several books and other publications directly and indirectly dealing with the Kargil conflict.

In his book Pakistan's Drift Into Extremism, author Hasan Abbas quotes the following conversation between General Zia ul Haq and his Director General Military Operations:

Zia: When we take Kargil, what do you expect the Indians to do? …I mean, don't you think they will try and recapture it?

DGMO: Yes sir, but we think that the position is impregnable and we can hold it against far superior forces.

Zia: Now that's very good, but in that case, don't you think the Indians will go for a limited offensive elsewhere along the line of control, take some of our territory, and use it as a bargaining chip?

DGMO: Yes sir, this is possible, but…

Zia: And if they are beaten back there also, don't you think they will attack across the international frontier, which may lead to a full-scale war?

DGMO: That's possible, sir.

Zia: So in other words, you have prepared a plan to lead us into a
full-scale war with India!

(As someone has currently borrowed my copy of the book, I obtained the quote from

Then, we are told, that in the mid-1990s Musharraf, then Director General of Military Operations, tried to activate the Kargil plan during Benazir Bhutto’s 2nd term as prime minister.

In an interview Benazir Bhutto stated that Musharraf brought the Kargil blueprint to her; a plan that she considered to be ‘an an absolute disaster’. According to her, she asked Musharraf what would happen if the Kargil plan was implemented and Musharraf replied that “he would put the flag of Pakistan on the Srinagar Assembly." She said she vetoed the plan because she knew that “ultimately we would have been asked to go back to where we were and that's exactly what happened”.

It is widely believed that shortly after Musharraf became Army Chief the Kargil plan was reactivated. While he was its primary advocate, his collaborators included Lt Gen Mohammad Aziz Khan, Chief of the General Staff (CGS), Lt Gen Mahmood Ahmed, Commander of the 10th Corps and Maj Gen Javed Hassan, Commander of the Pakistani troops in the Northern Areas.

As has been widely reported other Corps Commanders and Service Chiefs were deliberately kept out of the secret plan. Then Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) Lt Gen Tauqir Zia was taken into confidence when the 'gang of four' had already finalised the plan.


Wanting my blog to be short, I hunted around for a suitable piece on the net that covered these facts succinctly. That is when I came upon Wipipedia’s piece on Kargil. As I loathe the idea of plagiarizing I quoted the Wikipedia as my source, while also providing the links upon which Wikpedia based its facts on.

While I agree Wikipedia is often used for spin and propaganda (take for example Shaujat Aziz’s bio lauding his electoral victories in Attock and Tharparkar), to my mind the internet encyclopaedia’s piece on Kargil is fairly dispassionate as well as pretty accurate.

The idea of resurrecting the decades old Kargil plan and activating it was very much Musharraf’s brainchild. The fact that it turned into a disaster and very nearly triggered off a nuclear war is something Musharraf wishes everyone to forget.

maakhter said...

Wikipedia is a very biased and sub-standard product.

Pakistan successfully internationalized Kashmir conflict and India was unable to go for all out war due to a potential nuclear conflict during Kargil crisis according to the report by Center for Contemporary Conflict.

Kargil conflict should be analyzed in the light of Indian retreat after amassing its forces for months as an overreaction to attack on its parliament. Once again India could not go for all out war due to a potential nuclear conflict...Read More

Anonymous said...

Onlooker: great insight. As a keen Pakistan-watcher (with a strong Indian identity - full disclosure blah blah ...) your stories are credible and well-researched. Folks like you would have more success in military ventures against India than the morons your military establishment has thrown up. Musharraf's flying the Pakistani flag on the Srinagar assembly is a joke. I'm sure he's aware that his beloved military has lost every war it initiated.

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Sikander Pasha said...

Could a DGMO, having the rank of a Major General, have walked straight to the Prime Minister Benazir and present a plan of infiltration, by-passing the CGS and COAS??. Its a joke and nothing else. The then COAS Gen Karamat in a TV interview in 2003 rejected that any Kargil plan was ever present to Benazir Bhutto by his DGMO or by himself.