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Sharif admits he ‘let down’ Vajpayee on Kargil conflict

Claims he had no knowledge of ‘subversion’ by Musharraf, regrets not taking action



Nawaz Sharif

NEW DELHI: On the eve of his return home, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, has vowed to set up a commission, if elected to power, to fix responsibility for the “tragic” Kargil conflict. He admitted that he had “let down” his then Indian counterpart Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Maintaining that Pervez Musharraf was behind the 1999 Pakistani aggression in Kargil without his knowledge, he said the then Army Chief had “subverted” the process of improving relations with India. Mr. Sharif regretted not having taken any action against General Musharraf.

Favouring friendly and peaceful relations with India, Mr. Sharif told Karan Thapar’s ‘India Tonight’ programme for CNBC that the Kargil incident continued to haunt him and would be remembered in the history of bilateral relations.

“Kargil was a very tragic incident in the history of the relations between the two countries. ... I wish it had not happened,” said the PML(N) leader, who was ousted as Prime Minister by Gen. Musharraf in a bloodless coup three months after the Kargil conflict.

“After Kargil, the Indian Prime Minister [Vajpayee] had said he was let down by the Pakistani Prime Minister [Sharif]. I think he is justified in making the remarks. I accept that,” he said.

Insisting that he had no knowledge of Gen. Musharraf’s plans about Kargil, Mr. Sharif said there were tapes to prove it. He regretted not having set up a commission like India to go into the Kargil episode to fix the responsibility for it. “I did not take certain actions which should have been taken,” said Mr. Sharif, who was imprisoned after the coup and then forced into exile in 2001 by Gen. Musharraf. Asked whether he would set up such a commission if he became the Prime Minister again, Mr. Sharif replied in the affirmative.

On whether Gen. Musharraf could be questioned by the commission, he said it was for the panel to decide.

Not above law

“He (Musharraf) is not above the law of the land ... I appeared before the Supreme Court as Prime Minister, why can’t he do that,” said Mr. Sharif, who plans to return home on Monday to contest the upcoming general elections.

The former premier also regretted appointing Gen. Musharraf as the Army Chief and then promoting him after the Kargil conflict to the post of Joint Chief of Staff.

On relations with India, he said he would pick up the threads from where he left, but would first see what had happened in the last eight years to decide the future course of action.

“I don’t recognise Musharraf. He is not the legitimate ruler of Pakistan. I don’t have to go by what Musharraf says,” he said, asked about the President’s claim that relations had improved with India.

He said Gen. Musharraf’s decisions, including in relation to India, did not have the endorsement of Parliament where issues had to be discussed thoroughly.

Kashmir core issue

He added that both India and Pakistan would have to “move away from stated positions” and think in a very independent manner, failing which “we cannot go anywhere.” Kashmir, he emphasised, was the core issue between the two countries. — PTI

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