In the first account by a Pakistani military officer that nails Islamabads lie on Kargil,a former pilot who was Director of Operations of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) during the 1999 conflict has given a blow-by-blow account of the preparations undertaken by his countrys Army that led to operations inside the Indian side of the Line of Control.
Published in India in the latest issue of the ‘Vayu Aerospace and Defence Review’ magazine,PAF Air Commodore (retd) Kaiser Tufail,the man who interrogated IAF Flight Lieutenant K Nachiketa after his MiG-27 crashed in PoK during a bombing run in the initial days of the war,has laid bare the detailed Kargil plan by the Pakistan Army. He says that the Army trio of General Pervez Musharraf,10 Corps Commander Lt Gen Mehmud Ahmad and Force Command Northern Areas commander Maj Gen Javed Hasan took no one into confidence,neither its operational commanders,nor the heads of the other services.
Tufail,a decorated fighter pilot who was in charge of air operations during the war,has revealed that the Pak Army placed Stinger shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles on hill tops,moved artillery guns and ammunitions to posts that India had vacated during winter and drew plans to cut off the strategic Drass-Kargil road to choke supplies to the Siachen glacier.
Now based in Lahore,Tufail says the entire operation was planned by Musharraf but had the tacit approval of then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who,after a presentation,said General sahib,Bismillah karein… not withstanding the denials we hear from him every new moon.
Recalling his meeting with top Army officers,including Lt Gen Mehmud Ahmad who was commanding the Rawalpindi Corps,Tufail writes that the Kargil plan was revealed on May 12,two weeks before India retaliated with air strikes,when Ahmad briefed him and others on the operation.
Come October,we shall walk in to Siachen to mop up the dead bodies of hundreds of Indians left hungry,out in the cold, Ahmad is quoted as having said during the briefing,adding that I have Stingers on every peak to counter the threat of Indian air strikes against Pakistani intruders.
The target was a vulnerable section of Drass-Kargil road,whose blocking would virtually cut off the crucial lifeline which carried the bulk of supplies needed for daily consumption as well as annual winter stocking in Leh-Siachen sector. He (Lt Gen Ahmad) was very hopeful that this stratagem could choke off the Indians in the vital sector for up to a month,after which monsoons would prevent vehicular movements and also suspend airlift by IAF, Tufail writes on details of the briefing.
Expressing surprise over the failure of Indian intelligence to detect Pakistani movements that led to the occupation of Indian Army posts on the heights of Kargil,Tufail says it was well known in Skardu,days before operations were launched,that something big is imminent.
Helicopter flying activity was feverishly high as Army Aviation Mi 17s were busy moving artillery guns and ammunition to the posts that had been vacated by the Indians during the winter season. Troops in battle gear were to be seen all over the city. Interestingly,Army messes were abuzz with war chatter amongst young officers. In retrospect,one wonders how Indian intelligence agencies failed to read any such signs many weeks before the operation unfolded, Tufail writes.
Bringing out the disagreement between the Pak Army and Air Force on the operations,Tufail writes that many senior PAF officers tried to explain to the Army that Indian air strikes would wipe out bunkers occupied by ground forces but these were dismissed by the Army after Lt General Ahmad said troops were well camouflaged and concealed and that IAF pilots would not be able to pick out the posts from the air.
Perhaps it was the incredulousness of the whole thing that led Air Commodore Abid Rao (Assistant Chief of Air Staff Operations) to famously quip,After this operation,its going the be either a Court Martial or Martial Law as we walked out of the briefing room.
And for the first time,giving details of IAF success in bombing Pakistani positions during the war,Tufail writes that round the clock air attacks had made retention of posts by Pakistani infiltrators untenable.
The Mirage 2000s scored at least five successful laser guided bomb hits on forward dumping sites and posts. During the last days of operations which ended on 12 July,it was clear that delivery accuracy had improved considerably, he writes.
Contrary to the Indian view that he was shot down,Tufail claims that Flt Lt Nachiketas MiG-27 went down due to engine trouble caused by gas ingestion during high altitude strafing. He writes: Flt Lt Nachiketa,who ejected and was apprehended,had a tete-a-tete with this writer during an interesting interrogation session.
He conceded that the PAF had trouble maintaining air patrols in the region to deter Indian fighters as its F-16 mainstay was facing shortage of supply parts due to American sanctions. After one week of CAPs (combat air patrols),the F-16 maintenance personnel indicated that war reserves were being eaten into and the activity had the be rationalized,an euphemism for discontinuing it altogether, Tufail writes.
According to him,F-16 was the only fighter available with Pakistan to counter India but it was decided to discontinue patrols in case its services were needed during a full-blown war. Those not aware of the gravity of the F-16 operability problem under sanctions have complained of the lack of cooperation by the PAF, he writes.
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