Brig (Retd) Muhammad Nazir A great deal of water has flowed down the bridge since the Kargil Campaign and much to the comfort and relief of Musharraf, the muffled voice of Kargil now seems to be dying out. It is agonising that a debacle of this scale has been allowed to pass through the history without even an internal probe. The Indians despite regaining the heights, held a Kargil Commission to probe the causes of their intelligence failure regarding the alleged undetected occupation of Kargil Heights by the Pakistani troops and took a number of corrective measures to plug the loopholes. These are indeed the ways of progressive nations who take stock of their affairs and learn from their mistakes. Like always, the picture on Pakistan side has remained muddled and confused. It has been mostly a war of recriminations between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Pervez Musharraf on the issue on Kargil i.e. whether NS was in knowledge of this fateful operation? Pervez Musharraf might have deliberately encouraged this controversy to keep the nation embroiled and focused on this most insignificant aspect, knowing fully well that irrespective of whether NS was on board or not, "planning and conduct of an Army Operation is the sole domain and responsibility of the Army Chief and he cannot be absolved from the onus and consequences of its outcome". Most fundamental and key question, which got diluted in the aforesaid controversy therefore still remains as to what were the objectives or projected military gains which were envisaged to accrue from this operation? What made its launching an urgent and imperative Military necessity despite the process of rapprochement between the two hostile neighbours and whether the objectives envisaged were achieved on the conclusion of Kargil? Strategic planning and higher direction of war is a job for professionals. Nawaz Sharif was neither qualified nor had the wherewithal to evaluate the viability of an Army operation. He also had no reason to be sceptic about professional expertise of his own Army Chief. Based on favourable recommendations and projected military and political gains if he gave the green signal he committed no cardinal sin. The bumpy course however that the operation traversed during the conduct phase and the way it got concluded, raises many questions and leaves in lurch even a common military mind. Following aspects are particularly agitating: (a) There is a common perception that Kargil was the brainchild of a handful of generals and that it was mounted without even the knowledge and information of remaining Army hierarchy and sister services. To top it all, the Government and the PM were also not consulted nor informed. If all this is true and occurred irrespective of design or default, it constitutes a gross violation and unpardonable professional crime requiring due cognizance and enquiry at the national level. Even the most nave in Arms can visualize the gravity of such a sensitive venture. It is fraught and laden with inherent risk of escalation and could have led the two countries into full fledged and all out war. To assume exclusive authority and control over the conception, timing of initiation and conduct of a conflict which involves the destiny of a Nation, by a few in uniform is a highly misplaced initiative bearing no, legal, moral or professional authority and definitely calls for an exhaustive probe. (b) Weather and terrain play a significant role in the conduct and outcome of Army operations. Mountainous terrain provides immense strength to the defender. A body of troops in occupation of dominating heights in mountains is extremely difficult to dislodge without very costly, time consuming and determined attacks. The attacker who is normally three times the strength of defender in plains have to muster even higher force ratio due to very heavy casualties in mountains and snow covered peaks. There are examples when a well-sited and well-stuck automatic weapon repulsed company and battalion attacks due to strength of mountains. Even the attacker's preponderance in air and artillery would not play a dominant and decisive role against a well entrenched and determined defender in mountains as rolling and steep heights limited the effectiveness of conventional air and artillery. With the induction of Precision Guided Munitions (PGMs), Laser Guided Bombs (LGBs) in air forces and more lethal and accurate artillery the scenario is however transformed. The air arm has assumed the role and significance of a decisive Arm and no defender can hope to survive the onslaught of enemy's superiority in air and artillery. If defender is denuded of close air support and air cover while the adversary enjoys dominance in the sky, decimation of the defender becomes only a matter of time. Capitulation of Afghan and Iraqi forces against the American Air force amply demonstrate and manifest this decisive capability of air forces in modern era. In Kargil while the Indian Air and Bofor Artillery were busy pounding our positions day and night, not a single fighter was scrambled to interdict or engage the Indian Air. Resultantly the Indian air enjoyed total dominance and bombarded our positions at will despite shooting down of couple of Indian Aircraft by our anti aircraft missiles. To deprive our troops of the vital air cover either due to mis-appreciation of enemy's capability and reaction or for fear of escalation or any other reason is a professional failure. " Strategic blunders committed in conception of military operations can seldom be made up through the gallantry, sacrifice and martyrdom at the tactical level". Our boys did the best they could under such pathetic situation. It does present a sad story, incompetence and apathy on the part of higher command which subjected our troops to serious odds and unfavourable battlefield environment. (c) At some point of time during the course of operation, it was declared that the troops occupying the Kargil heights were Kashmiri freedom fighters and that Pakistan had nothing to do with their presence or occupation of Kargil. The wisdom behind and implications of such a statement were grievous. I am at a loss to follow the possible military advantage which was intended from such a stance which was even difficult to substantiate. The embarrassment got compounded when the Indians constantly aired the intercept of conversation between General Aziz with Pervez Musharraf who was on a tour abroad. If the intercept was a concoction by the Indians, we failed to effectively counter this highly misleading and damaging Indian ploy and propaganda. But if it was based on truth our top military leadership appeared totally oblivious of basic demands of confidentiality of such a sensitive venture. (d) Talk about suffering excessive number of casualties at Kargil needs to be clarified. Casualties are generally attributable to the intensity of battle including strength of troops involved, weapon system being employed and the scale and speed of operation. Quality of manoeuvre, tactics, leadership and morale also influence the number of casualties. Although Pakistan Army has always maintained a discernable edge over the adversary in the intangibles, we assume there was parity of above mentioned factors for both armies. Irrespective of the outcome of operation the Indians being on the offensive mode and the factor of terrain very seriously acting against them, should have suffered a minimum three times and going up to five to ten times more the number of casualties compared with own forces. Anything less than this or adverse than the given ratio would point towards serious flaws in the planning and conduct of operation. It is the art and professional excellence of higher command to create and ensure conditions for the launching and conduct of an operation, so favourable that the battle is won even before it is joined. This is a professional imperative and also easier to achieve when the choice and initiative with regard to the timing, direction and place of application rests with the side opening the armed hostilities. Pakistan had all these pluses yet if our causalities present an adverse picture it speaks of gross omissions in the planning, conduct and rallying of adequate resources and wherewithal. (e) Any amount of compensation and awards given to the families and dependents of Shaheeds is always justified. The nation must look after its Shaheeds as much and as best as it can. The number of gallantry awards and other benefits announced for this operation however is stated to surpass the last two wars. This betrays a sense of guilt and an attempt for pacification rather than a genuine intent for balanced conferring of awards and welfare measures. From the given details, it emerges that Kargil operation suffered from inherent flaws in strategic military vision, planning and weaknesses in execution. As a result the Army leadership got caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. When the Indian air was pounding our defensive positions round the clock, we did not commit our air force, most probably for fear of escalation and an all out war, for which it appears we had neither planned nor prepared. On the other hand we were not willing for the unconditional pullout which was being demanded by the Indians, because it would have amounted to acceptance of a humiliating defeat. Our soldiers at the heights therefore bore the brunt and continued to be subjected to the brutality of unhindered Indian air and Artillery attacks. Kargil ended in a disaster as it was bound to, thanks to the genius of Pervez Musharraf and a handful of his cronies. There are examples in military history, when leaders of self-esteem and integrity took their own lives upon suffering humiliating defeats. Poor General Niazi has had to live in eternal disgrace for surrender in erstwhile East Pakistan despite the fact that the odds were all against him and none of his creation. The nation and history shall never forgive Musharraf for conducting an ill-conceived operation, abrogating the constitution and usurping the fundamental rights of the 160 million Pakistanis. He should be tried for high treason so that no one ever indulges in such a heinous crime against the country. The writer is an ex-commander of Special Service Group(SSG)