Sunday, January 6, 2013

Putting our children in line of fire

Published in The Nation, January 6, 2012

Kargil, like every other meaningless war that we have fought, brings home lessons we continue to refuse to learn. Instead, we proudly call it our history written in the blood of our children. Indeed, our children penning down our misdeeds with their blood! Medals for some, few songs, a cross road renamed, and of course annual remembrance day and a memorial for those who sacrificed their tomorrow for our today; thus preparing more war fodder for our continuing misadventures. Since nothing went wrong, so there is nothing to learn. We shall do it again. We decide. You die. We sing.

Cut off from the reality of pain and affliction that would be brought upon the nation, the decision maker takes the course most suited to his whimsical ambitions. Possible hurdles are sidetracked, on the basis of ‘need to know’, or merely bulldozed. Never has there been an institutional decision for the bloodshed. And at the end of each fiasco, original objectives are redefined to cry, “Hurrah! We have won”.

Our leaders seek personal glory, and desire honour in the eyes of other nations. Sadly, that has become our definition of national honour; but how can we be respected when we have little self respect? So concerned have we become about how they perceive us that we openly deride our religion and all the social values that we once stood for.

The whole truth about Kargil is yet to be known. We await the stories of forgotten starved soldiers hiding behind cold desolate rocks, with empty guns still held in their hands. What stood them there could only be a love higher than that of life. Some refused to withdraw even when ordered, and stayed to fight the proverbial last man last round. Such precious blood spilled without cause!

Whatever little I know, took a while to emerge, since General Musharraf had put a tight lid on Kargil. Three years later, a study commenced by GHQ to identify issues of concern at the lowest levels of command, was forcefully stopped by him. “What is your intent?” he asked. His cover-up was revealed many years later, on publication of his book.

An unsound military plan based on invalid assumptions, launched with little preparations 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. The question then arises why was it undertaken? Were there motives other than those proclaimed, or was it only a blunder, as I had assumed for many years?

It certainly wasn’t a defensive manoeuvre. There were no indications of an Indian attack. We didn’t pre-empt anything; nothing was on the cards. I was then heading the Analysis Wing of Inter Services Intelligence and it was my job to know. Our clearly expressed intent was to cut the supply line to Siachen and force the Indians to pull out. This was not a small result we sought and cannot be classified as a tactical manoeuvre, where no one other than the local commander needed to be aware. General Musharraf himself writes, “800 sq kms of area was captured.... and it created strategic effects”. To say that occupying empty spaces along the Line of Control was not a violation of any agreement and came under the purview of the local commander is astounding. This area was with the Indians as a result of Simla Agreement, and there had been no major violation of the Line of Control since 1971.

The entire planning and execution was done in a cavalier manner, in total disregard of military convention. In justification, to say that our assessment was not wrong, but there was, “unreasonably escalated Indian response” is a sorry excuse for not being able to assess Indian reaction. Assumptions were made that they would not be able to dislodge us and the world would sit back idly.

There were no mujahideen, only taped wireless messages, which fooled no one. Our soldiers were made to occupy barren ridges, with hand held weapons and ammunition. There was no way to dig in, so they were told to make parapets with lose stones and sit behind them, with no overhead protection. The boys were comforted by their commander’s assessment that no serious response would come. But it did — wave after wave, supported by massive air bursting artillery and repeated air attacks. The enemy still couldn’t manage to capture the peaks, and instead filled in the valleys. Cut off and forsaken, our posts started collapsing one after the other, though the general publicly denied it.

The gung-ho mannerism, when there were no pressures, was cowed when lines started shrinking and the international setting became frightening. There was no will to stay the course. Media was hushed to silence, so that pulling out does not become a political issue. We will sing when our songs don’t tie us down.

The operation, in any case, didn’t have the capacity to choke Siachen. When this truth surfaced, the initial aim was quickly modified. Now the book reads, “I would like to state emphatically that whatever movement has taken place so far in the direction of finding a solution to Kashmir is due considerably to the Kargil conflict.” Glory be to the victors.

We continue to indulge in bloody enterprises, under the hoax of safeguarding national interest. How many more medals will we put on coffins? How many more songs are we to sing? And how many more martyrs will our silences hide? If there is purpose to war then yes, we shall all go to the battle front, but a war where truth has to be hidden, makes one wonder whose interest is it serving?

It must be Allah’s country, for who else is holding it afloat?!

The writer is a retired lieutenant general and former corps commander of Lahore. 



  1. I wonder what will change first the alignment of the LC, our mindset or the annual appraisal format of Commanders !
    Either way the common man is the loser and the gains if any really not worth the effort.
    Value of human life is low only because we are to many and equally poor intellectually morally and materially. The leadership from amongst the populace cannot possibly through up a Statesman. It is thus mediocre in potential and practice.
    The able General is candid in retirement as most officers are in retirement - which is NOT emulating or inspiring exemplary since he now enjoys his high pension for not standing by his convictions during his service days. The need of the Hour is honest officers and not PLIANT GENERALS !!

  2. A brave and thoughtful article. Unlike what the last post suggests, I am pretty sure that Gen Aziz must have been a man of principle, even whilst in service.

    Ajai Shukla

  3. I agree with Ajay. Gen Aziz seeems an individual with an open, independent mind.

  4. Gen Shahid Aziz definitely is a man of high principles and straight-forward upfront.

  5. The constitution of all democracies is designed to have pliant gens, DGs and ch secys so that national rape can be conducted e impunity in d name of civ control.
    Whatever post is constitutionally protected is a pain in d *** (CJI EC C&AG etc).
    The guy has integrity to call a spade ....

  6. I feel sorry for my past but the fact remains we were assigned a mission and we did it. Outnumberred...outgunned...under adverse air superiority and survival conditions we fought till last man,last bullet.If ever it is noticed that against heavy odds we lost any post or picquet I may please be court-martialled.I exactly know how Indian media specially electronic media used the propaganda.But I would request the researcher to read Capt.Amrinder Singh's book,"A RIDGE TOO FAR" analyse briefing given to him at Military Operation Directorate Army HQ and Battle Accounts of Ten attacking units given in the same book and than decide why we were made to fall back? .....Their's not to make reply,Their's not to reason why,Their's but to do and die,into the valley of death,Rode.....

  7. At least someone has itegrity and honour.

  8. I am reminded of one day at Dubai! I hired a cab for a day and the cabbie was a Paki! In the late evening when he was dropping me back to my hotel, I asked him as where he hailed from! He said "Pakistan"! I told him that by then he would have known that I was a Hindustani! Cabbie answered in affirmative. When I asked him that was he not having any antipathy or hatred towards Hindustanis; his reply moved me. He said " Zenaab, mai mazdoor hoon, mujhe kyoon koi gila shikwa, ye to we karte hain jo siyasat karte hain". Only wish we Pakis or Hindustanis, so called literate and educated, could have even a fraction of the cabbie's understanding and modesty! Why not one to one at the minimum,we ex soldiers, sow the seed of immortal camaraderie! May Allah and Ishwar bring the two warring siblings together like west and east Germany! One small step ....a giant leap for the two countries! And we all know miracles do happen!

  9. I had moist eyes, while getting deep into thoughts, Gen. Shahid was admirably putting into words. Only man of his character can visualise ,foresee & putforth the harsh realty so candidly.
    My interest into his article got aroused, when Indian media announced the victory in claiming' look the truth has come out as the Govt. of India was saying all along.'
    General Shahid despite knowing that risk of aforesaid, dared to bare , which shows the strength of his character and the desire to let people know the games leaders (Civilian or military) play.I believe if there could only be 100 such people like him in Pakistan , things can change dramatically.


    1. Mr Gupta, why only 100 such in Pakistan, what about India!!! It takes two to tango and please don't say India has been tangoing for the past 60+ years! cuz I have just had my lunch!!!

  10. About time General saab. I'm glad to see such an article coming even if it comes from a retired General. To ensure that we don't indulge in another Kargil, we have to acknowledge Kargil as a disaster. Accountability is for mature democracies , so I won't ask for accountability. But at the very least, we should accept the fact that we indulged in a futile war which we were bound to lose from the very beginning. In the larger context, the acknowledgement of Kargil as a mistake should lead to a consensus in the army and the civilians in Pakistan that we shall not indulge in such misadventures and focus our efforts to make Pakistan strong by investing in its people, not wars. We may not be able to make Pakistan as prosperous as some of the western countries during our life-time but the journey should start now.

  11. "kapi mala bela ku sata katha kuhe", a proverb in my lingo which means when a Kapi (monkey) is about to die it tells you the truth! The story is from Ramayan and is about Bali & Sugriv the two mightiest of brothers. India and Pakistan are two brothers too not unlike the two monkey warriors in the great epic. What brought about Bali's downfall and Sugriv being coronated was that Sugriv followed the path of truth. God was with him. I would like to congratulate Gen Aziz for letting out the truth 13 years after the Kargil war. Now that his conscience is clear he can die peacefully without any remorse. I just have one last request and i.e. may I request him to clarify the word "Narco-Terrorism" as it pertains to the ISI.

  12. SQN LDR SOHAIL ASHIQJanuary 29, 2013 at 9:21 PM

    Sorry sir, but i believe the honesty and integrity is acceptable by individuals when they exhibit at the moment when it is being questioned. Would general sahib do what he has come to nelieve now if he is taken back in time again...??? I am sorry because i believe he would remain the same and be part of the boat led by musharraf to collect gajars (carrots) offerred by army command and govt. Why i say all this bcos i am from pak defence forces too.

  13. SQN LDR SOHAIL ASHIQJanuary 29, 2013 at 9:23 PM

    suhel_ashiq at hotmail

  14. All these generals do wrong things and enjoy luxuries at the expense of Government money during and after their service.And then somewhere in their life they start saying things like these when they feel they cannot carry the burden of their wrongdoings.......But the fact is that they already have destroyed their country and its people through their deeds.......Many killed during Kargil war for nothing but just for the personal wishes of a few Generals.....

  15. If the people of Pakistan feel strongly against the wars and battles, then let us raise and stop it

  16. This general officer is an example of what we have in our high military command. This is not the last of examples, I am afraid to say so. There can be more coming up in future.
    Please let the law prevail. Let justice take its course of action for all such 'confessions' which probably are not out of shame but because been out of work.

  17. I am hard to understand that such stories always appeared when the event had occured a long time back
    it give rise to conspiracy theories that why now?
    If the event of kargil was a adventure, and nothing more, then why did u remain part of army for so long.
    If u consider it a war without a purpose,you shold have resigned instead of serving under a defective general musharaf

  18. After a seeing a few generals and YOU talking all crap abt the army you can think of, i am really doubting the selection procedure of the army YOU swore allegience to. The only blunder made by the army in the last 65 years is making people like YOU it's generals. Pleaze show some pride to the Army you have been eating from. GENERAL SAAB.

    1. If I talk about the ills of the people of this country would it mean I should renounce my citizenship, no anonymous, it means I speak up for I love this country. It is my pride in Pakistan that makes me speak against the ills of its people, if I weren't proud I would be settled in Canada bitching about what's wrong with Pakistan

  19. Lt. Gen. (Retd) Shahid Aziz recently opened a proverbial Pandora's Box by writing for the Pakistani newspaper "The Nation" exposing many pieces of misinformation/disinformation of then Army Chief Musharraf hopefully destroying Musharraf’s dreams of taking over again as President of Pakistan after a 'victorious' return to Pakistan (like his “Military Victory” in Kargil)!
    However there is nothing unusual about what Musharraf's had done. He is chameleon & fox rolled into one, a habitual liar, a double-talk expert! He lied to US President Bush & British PM Tony Blair, finally stabbing both in their backs. When “9/11” occurred, Pakistan was the only country recognizing Taliban Government in Afghanistan but he didn't even spare Mullah Omar, stabbing him in the back! Our PM Atal Behari Vajpayee made a mistake in inviting him to Agra for talks, giving this pariah dictator the legitimacy he needed but didn't deserve. Musharraf made deals with Late Benazir, didn’t keep them. He allegedly destroyed all the circumstantial evidence after her assassination for which he has been summoned by CJP but absconding!
    He is not a trustworthy leader & belongs to a jail in Pakistan!
    Musharraf's glitter is not gold, just a glossy façade. It is time Pakistanis woke up & rejected not only just Musharraf but all the Generals who might be tempted to usurp power in future by foul means!
    Musharraf likes to pose as “real soldier”, but Gen. Shahid Aziz has done a yeoman’s job showing to his fellow Pakistanis what sort of “soldier” Musharraf really was, a General who sends his soldiers in the harm’s way with a harebrained plan but doesn’t care for them, refusing even to accept their dead bodies and give them honourable burials! Exposé by Gen. Shahid Aziz has contributed handsomely towards bridging the trust deficit between India and Pakistan.
    K B Kale, Jakarta

  20. I am a soldier, a very proud and decorated veteran of Kargil . I was enjoying the so called career appointments when I was posted and assigned a mission.....encircled from three sides...out numbered 1:25...outgunned 1:25...against adverse air superiority... and survival conditions. We fought till last man last bullet without losing an inch of defended area . We did suffer but we accomplished the assigned task. Unfortunately people got impressed by Indian propaganda and screened / dramatized actions ...I was speaking truth, never ever lied but the people doubted. You are too late to say, "YAE KHAMOSHI KAHAN TAK?"... We have gone and would remain "KAMOSH" till your relative takes back those stories and give pride to those mothers whose beloved sons did what no one has experienced in Indo-Pak wars some of them never returned. Sir you must have seen my Post Operation report...military historians should meet the people who were there, read indian books and battle accounts of Indian units published in Amrinder Singh's book ,"A RIDGE TOO FAR". But what for????? You will never be able to return that pride I had in the uniform. But I as an officer and gentleman promise to accept any punishment if ever found guilty of misquoting any wrong event or losing an inch of defended area.