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Friday, December 31, 2010

Perfidious Musharraf and his Recent TV Interview - Part II

A friend who follows this blog sent me mail pointing out to the website of former Pakistani Air Force (PAF) officer who had in great detail described the involvement of the Pakistani Army (PA) in Kargil, something the venerable Gen. (r) Musharraf continues to deny vehemently. We have several sources today, very authentic, who have categorically stated the involvement of the PA in Kargil. The more Gen. (r) Musharraf adamantly sticks to his stand, the more he becomes the laughing stock thus confirming his well-known status as a liar of the very first order. In my opinion therefore, there is no need to even discuss this issue further.

The rest of the interview with Gen. (r) Musharraf on the Times Now channel was also very interesting. The interview dealt with such issues as Gen. (r) Musharraf's speech on Jan. 12, 2002 wherein he promised to take strong action to root out terrorism from Pakistan, Musharraf's own admission of guilt to the Der Spiegel magazine etc. When cornered, he would say that everybody was bothererd only about Pakistan while India went scot free in spite of its mischief in East Pakistan and Siachen. There can be no comparison between Kargil and the two events that Gen. (r) Musharraf has the habit of mentioning (this interview was not the first time he mentioned such linkages) everytime he runs out of points. These are selective narratives of rubbish history that the Pakistani Army and its supporters have made the gullible people of Pakistan gulp. Like helpless people tossed about in a raging sea from a wrecked ship, the Pakistanis try to clutch at these virtual straws and live in a world of denial, ignorant and therefore blissful.

The discontent in East Pakistan dates back to even Jinnah's euphoric days after Independence. The trampling of proud Bengali sensibilities of their language, culture and history by the supercilious West Pakistanis especially Punjabis, the haughty stance of 'Defence of East Pakistan lies in the security of West Pakistan', the economic swindling of East Pakistan to meet the insatiable demands and spendthrift ways of West Pakistan, the contempt with which East Pakistanis were looked down upon as rather cowardly, poor, short, dark and rice-eating cousins of the tall, fair and wheat-and-meat eating martial races of West Pakistan, their suspect loyalty to the very 'Idea of Pakistan', in the eyes of the West Pakistanis, because of a high percentage of Hindus among them and the resultant impurity of the entire East Pakistanis etc. had already created enough dissension within East Pakistan. The rejection of the 1970 election mandate by the Pakistani Army Generals and Z.A. Bhutto because that would have allowed an East Pakistani Sheikh Mujibur Rehman to become the Prime Minister of the nation, followed by the brutal genocide by state and non-state actors of West Pakistan only added fuel to the fire and culminated in the inevitable seccesion and this history is well known to the entire world, including Pakistanis themselves.

Thus, the landslide victory in the first elections of universal suffrage, considered by many to be the only free elections in the history of Pakistan, by Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, a popular leader of East Pakistan, led immediately to the breakup of more than half the country. Sheikh Mujibur Rehman's Awami party swept the polls scoring twice the number of seats than his nearest rival, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of PPP. Since Mujib won all his seats in East Pakistan and Z.A.Bhutto similarly in West Pakistan, the Pakistani Army feared that Mujib as the Prime Minister would reduce the power of the Army which consisted mostly of Punjabis and Pashtuns, all from West Pakistan. The Army decided to put its faith in Z.A.Bhutto especially since it had close linkages with him ever since he was a Foreign Minister in the Ayub Government. In fact, he along with Army Generals, is reputed to have planned the 1965 war and cajoled a reluctant Field Marshal Ayub Khan to accept the plans. In any case, Z.A.Bhutto’s intransigence in accepting Mujib as the Prime Minister had the tacit backing of the Army and the deteriorating political situation led to the genocide in East Pakistan. The rest is history. Of course, in the final stages of their struggle, India was forced to help the East Pakistanis in their war with West Pakistan as millions of refugees poured into India straining her economy and destabilizing the region even as most of the rest of the world remained as a mute spectator. India never instigated these events in East Pakistan unlike what Pakistan has been doing in Jammu & Kashmir (and increasingly in other parts of India as well) since Independence.

Kargil was probably an attempt by the PA to execute what they could not do in Siachen. This suspicion is lent credence by the repeated linkages that Musharraf has expressed whenever Kargil was discussed. The occupation by India of the Siachen glaciers was prompted by Pakistan's insidious attempt to surreptitiously grab it. As in the 1947 and 1965 wars and later in Kargil, and so in Siachen, Pakistan was smugly assuming that India would not enlarge the envelope once the conflict broke out or if Pakistan seized the initiative. But, it paid a heavy price and yet never learned any lessons.

Now, a brief note on the geography of the region. The Siachen Glaciers are located on the Karakoram range, which is one of those five mountain ranges to join the Pamir Knot, the others being, from west to east, the Hindu Kush, Pir Panjal, Himalayan and Kun Lun which is to the east of Karakoram. The Karakoram Range has two important passes, one in the west known as the Khunjerab and the other in the east in Ladakh known as the Karakoram Pass. The Karakoram Highway that connects Pakistan to Xinjiang through the Pakistan occupied Balawaristan region of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) goes through this pass. On the other hand, the eastern Karakoram Pass was the traditional trade route for the Ladakhis from Leh to Xinjiang. Two limbs of the Karakoram are the Saltoro and the Sasser ranges and the Siachen Glacier is located between these two limbs. At the northern end of the Saltoro Range is the Sia La pass (almost at the Shaksgam Valley ceded by Pakistan to China in circa 1962)and about the middle is the Bilafond La pass, both of which help cross into the Karakoram. The Nubra River drains south from the Siachen Glacier into Ladakh and the Saltoro River drains west, both of which join the Shyok River (the River of Death) which in turn joins the great Indus River at Skardu (in Baltistan) where the Indus takes a deep bend to get to the plains of Pakistan. The Siachen glacier is on the eastern side of Soltoro while the Boltoro glacier is on the western side.

So, with the help of the American Defence Mapping Agency which in its 1974 edition wilfully and deliberately drew the border by itself favouring Pakistan in the Siachen area, the Pakistanis began to lay claim to the un-demarcated areas to the north and east of point NJ9842 in Ladakh up to the Karakoram Pass. Various Atlas producers in the US and the UK (part of the 3½ Friends Group of Pakistan) began to follow suit and wrongfully depict the glacier as belonging to Pakistan. (The map reference point NJ9842, or as it is also referred to as NJ980420 sometimes, was the closest point to military presence of Cease Fire Line, CFL, which was agreed to in Karachi when war ended in c. 1948. This reference point was also used in the Simla Accord in 1972 as the starting point of Line of Control, LoC, leaving once again border beyond that undemarcated by simply saying "thence north to the glaciers". The area further north was left undemarcated because of its remote, uninhabited wilderness) With this support from the US as a fait accompli, Pakistan began to issue 'permits' and allow mountaineering expeditions by the Japanese and others to climb the Saltoro Range. We can clearly see the help from Pakistan's 3½ Friends (or Masters, as some call them) in sustaining and nurturing hostility towards India. Then, in the 1980s, Pakistan began to issue maps that showed the LoC extending straight from NJ9842 to the Karakoram Pass instead of 'thence North to the glaciers' just as the US Defence Mapping Agency did in c. 1974. It has been pointed out by many that in a mountainous region, there can be no straight line boundaries without taking into consideration crests, rivers, watersheds etc.

In 1983, Pakistan tried to set up military posts in these areas, an effort that failed because of poor logistics. Therefore, they went in for massive purchase of winter gear and eqipment to overcome the earlier issues. On August 21, 1983, Pakistan demanded Indian troops to be withdrawn south of "line joining point NJ9842 and Karakoram Pass NE7410", a demand that India rejected. A second demand note was issued by Pakistan on August 29, 1983, betraying Pakistan's likely approach to Siachen in the upcoming summer of 1984. In the meanwhile, Pakistan had raised a special force codenamed Burzil Force in an operation codenamed Op. Ababeel to be launched in May/June, 1984. Thus, when India came to know of Pakistani plans to occupy the Siachen heights, they wasted no time in asserting their rightful claim on April 13,1984, through a daring operation, codenamed Op. Meghdoot. They occupied initially the two passes (Sia La and Bilafond La) on the Saltoro Range which acted as the gateway to Siachen and then further east to the Karakoram, and slowly extended the occupation to the other heights and passes on the ridges. The Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) today follows (from east to west) the NJ9842 - Gyong La Pass (the eastern most pass on the Saltoro Range) - K12 Peak - Bilafond La Pass - Saltoro Kangri 1 Peak - Sia La Pass and then up to Indira Col which is the western end of the Siachen Glacier. The LoC here has been termed as AGPL.

One can understand the bitterness in Gen. (r) Musharraf when he speaks about East Pakistan and Siachen.

In East Pakistan, he was starting as a novice officer and though he did not surrender to the Indian Army, having been withdrawn from being sent to East Pakistan at all, the surrender itself must have been very depressing. After having been brought up on a staple diet of cowardly kafir Hindu soldiers and the ratio of one Pakistani soldier for every ten Hindu Indian soldiers, 93000 of his comrades-in-arms surrendering at Dhaka on that fateful day of Dec. 16, 1971, beaten thoroughly and shaken badly, must have been painful indeed.

As for Siachen, it must have an even greater impact on Gen. (r) Musharraf than the events of Bangladesh. He was directly responsible for the loss of the important Quaid post (later renamed as Bana Post after Captain Bana Singh, PVC and his intrepid companions captured it in 1987) and later the decimation at Bilafond La pass in c. 1987. He planned the operations that failed miserably. His Pakistani Army does not fight India in Siachen, as it is generally believed, because PA cannot even access it through the Saltoro Ranges. It was no wonder that he wanted to avenge the defeat which landed him in greater despair and shame in 1999.

(To be continued. . . )

REFERENCES

1. SIACHEN: Conflict Without End, Lt. Gen. V.R.Raghavan, Viking, 2002

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