ISLAMABAD: The Kargil incursion was a far bigger tragedy for Pakistan than the civil war which led to the creation of Bangladesh and damaged the country's Kashmir cause, a former general who quit army after being superseded by President Pervez Musharraf as chief of army has said.
Retired Gen Ali Kuli Khan Khattak, who quit the army after the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appointed Musharraf as Army Chief in 1998 superseding him, said Kargil was flawed in terms of its conception, tactical planning and execution.
"It was an unprofessional decision by someone, who has served in the Pakistan Army for 40 years. As the architect of Kargil, he must answer critical questions for sacrificing so many soldiers. I am sure Kargil would continue to haunt him for the rest of his life," he said reacting to claims by Musharraf that Kargil was a successful operation.
He also challeged Musharraf's assertion that Kargil had revived the Kashmir issue. "I would say Kargil has damaged the Kashmir cause. It was a disaster bigger than the East Pakistan tragedy," he said, referring to the 1971 civil war which led to the creation of Bangladesh.
"At that time, Pakistan at least had some friends but on Kargil we were friendless. There was no way we could defend this tactless move," he said in an interview to 'The News' newspaper.
Describing Musharraf as "Mr General U-turn," Khattak said his seven-year rule has been "characterized by U-turns on policy matters. This president cannot hold on to anything. He is impulsive. He took decisions on Kargil, Waziristan, Balochistan and a host of other issues and then backtracked on most of them."
He also accused Musharraf of mishandling the situation in Waziristan and Balochistan and "ordering the bombing and killing of our own people."
He was of the view that both issues ought to have been resolved politically. "I know from my sources that five to six military officers including colonels were court-martialled for refusing to fire on our people in Waziristan."
He also disputed claims by Musharraf in his book 'In the Line of Fire,' that he (Kuli) advocated imposition of martial law when then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif forced General Jehangir Karamat, army chief at the time, to resign.
Khattak said he never made a case for military rule.
"My view was that the Army should be firm and fair in dealing with all situations. I certainly advised General Jehangir Karamat, (who quit following differences with Sharif) not to resign as Army chief but I didn't ask him to stage a coup and impose martial law," he said.
Khattak and Musharraf were batchmates, having joined the 29th Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) course in Kakul and then becoming involved in an often bitter competition.
"I can say we were friends until I was made Chief of General Staff (CGS). Musharraf was very unhappy that he couldn't make it," he recalled.
Reached in Karachi for his reaction to observations made by Musharraf about him in the book, he argued it was a one-sided version of events in which facts have been misrepresented and half-truths inserted.