Lt-Gen (retd) Ali Kuli Khan Khattak has disputed President General Pervez MusharrafĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s claim in his book, In the Line of Fire, that he advocated imposition of martial law when then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif forced General Jehangir Karamat, army chief at the time, to resign.
Kuli told The News he never made a case for military rule. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“My view was that the Army should be firm and fair in dealing with all situations. I certainly advised General Jehangir Karamat not to resign as Army chief but I didnĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t ask him to stage a coup and impose martial law,Ă˘â‚¬Âť he maintained.
Lt-Gen (retd) Ali Kuli and General Musharraf were batch-mates, having joined the 29th Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) course in Kakul and then becoming involved in an often bitter competition.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“I can say we were friends until I was made Chief of General Staff (CGS). Musharraf was very unhappy that he couldnĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t make it,Ă˘â‚¬Âť Kuli recalled. Reached in Karachi for his reaction to the observations made by Musharraf about him in the book, Kuli argued it was a one-sided version of events in which facts have been misrepresented and half-truths inserted to make General Musharraf look good.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“I am reading the book and preparing a rejoinder. Some of the references about me are not true,Ă˘â‚¬Âť he stressed. Keen to refute the claim that he advocated imposition of martial law, Kuli said as CGS to Karamat he was aware that prime minister Nawaz Sharif was angry about KaramatĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s speech at the Naval War College in which he had recommended reforms such as formation of National Security Council to improve the governmentĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s working.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“I also knew that Karamat had written a letter to Sharif to explain his thinking and had spoken about the need for reforms in a meeting of the defence committee. Sharif later told Karamat that he should have pointed out these things to him alone instead of raising them in presence of others in the defence committee meeting,Ă˘â‚¬Âť he explained.
Furious PM: Continuing, Kuli said: Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“General Karamat told me that Sharif was furious and the situation was worse than he had told me. In presence of ISI Chief Lt-Gen Nasim Rana, the question of General KaramatĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s resignation also came up for discussion. I told him donĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t even think of resigning because the verdict that you would receive would be so damning that you would not be able to live with it. This is what I said and I own it even now. But at no stage, whether it was the corps commandersĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ conference or that of the principal staff officers, I asked him to stage a coup,Ă˘â‚¬Âť he contended.
Kuli also denied the presidentĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s assertion about having a small run-in with him for having advocated removal of (elected prime minister) Nawaz Sharif. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“I donĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t remember having any run-in with him. Also, I never reported on him and would like him to show me one instance of any such thing,Ă˘â‚¬Âť he said.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“By the way, it was Musharraf who subsequently removed the elected prime minister, i.e. Nawaz Sharif, from power,Ă˘â‚¬Âť he argued. He pointed out that Musharraf met Prime Sharif without obtaining Army Chief General Jehangir KaramatĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s permission.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“A serving soldier must always obtain the army chiefĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s permission for such meetings. Musharraf first met Sharif who told him that he was being made army chief and later called on Karamat,Ă˘â‚¬Âť he alleged.
Kuli stated that he resigned from the Pakistan Army when Sharif appointed General Musharraf as the army chief.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“I and Lt-Gen Khalid Nawaz quit our jobs in keeping with the highest traditions of Pakistan Army when we were superceded,Ă˘â‚¬Âť he stated.
Whole truth: Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Musharraf in his book hasnĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t told the whole truth with regard to our telephonic conversation after he became the army chief. I rang him twice and was able to talk to him on the second try. I congratulated him on becoming the army chief and wished him good luck. I told him I was travelling to Peshawar to attend a wedding in the family. I also informed him that I was going to resign in line with the high traditions of Pakistan Army,Ă˘â‚¬Âť he said.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“In fact, Lt-Gen Ziauddin as the Adjutant General asked me whether I would be coming to the GHQ the next day to attend the reception for General Musharraf on his promotion. I told him I wasnĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t going to come. I put in my resignation and never stepped foot in the (General headquarters (GHQ) again,Ă˘â‚¬Âť he remembered.
Kuli claimed that General Musharraf during their phone conversation uttered only two words, Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“thank youĂ˘â‚¬Âť and Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“ok.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“I was surprised to read in the book that General Musharraf said Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“bad luckĂ˘â‚¬Âť to me for having missed the chance to become the army chief. He also didnĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t ask me to stay on in the army. I am amazed that he has written things that never happened,Ă˘â‚¬Âť he complained.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Musharraf once complained to a common friend that I didnĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t felicitate him on becoming the army chief. I felicitated him after hearing the news of his promotion in the 9 pm news on television. I am not a hypocrite and it is true that I wasnĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t at all happy that Musharraf had overtaken me and become the army chief. I had been a better officer than him throughout our careers but now I had lost out to him. But it didnĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t mean that I didnĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t congratulate him or stopped talking to him,Ă˘â‚¬Âť he said.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“In fact, I have met Musharraf on quite a few occasions in recent years, sometimes at weddings and other social occasions, and exchanged pleasantries. I visited the Army House to offer Fateha when his father died. We also met at our PMA course get-togethers. Once, I attended a dinner at the Army House to which I was invited by the NCHD head Dr Nasim Ashraf and shared table with the president. He was very gracious to me on that occasion,Ă˘â‚¬Âť he recalled.
Front-runner: The retired, 63-year-old general claimed he was ahead of General Musharraf throughout their military careers. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“I was commissioned as number one in PMA Kakul while Musharraf was at 11th position. Khalid Nawaz, Shabbir Sharif Shaheed and others were also ahead of him. I and Khalid Nawaz did the Staff College course in 1973 while Musharraf could do it a year later in 1974. I topped the Army Aviation course and was declared the best flier. I also served as commandant, Staff College, Quetta, commanded the 10th Corps, and got the most prized appointment as CGS,Ă˘â‚¬Âť he said.
Lt-Gen (retd) Ali Kuli Khan said he was sent to Sandhurst in UK as the top cadet on PMA Kakul. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Each of the four companies at the PMA was asked to recommend four top names. I, Khalid Nawaz, Shabbir Sharif and Zaheerul Islam Afridi were listed. Musharraf may have been in the list of his company but he was never sent to Sandhurst,Ă˘â‚¬Âť he pointed out.
Kuli also found fault with some of MusharrafĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s policies. He accused him of mishandling the situation in Waziristan and Balochistan and ordering the bombing and killing of our own people. He felt both issues ought to have been resolved politically.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“I know from my sources that five to six military officers including colonels were court-martialled for refusing to fire on our people in Waziristan,Ă˘â‚¬Âť he claimed.
Kargil capers: Describing the Kargil operation as disastrous, Kuli argued it was flawed in terms of its conception, tactical planning and execution.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“It was an unprofessional decision by someone, who has served in the Pakistan Army for 40 years. As the architect of Kargil, he must answer critical questions for sacrificing so many soldiers. I am sure Kargil would continue to haunt him for the rest of his life,Ă˘â‚¬Âť he maintained.
While still on Kargil, Kuli challenged the presidentĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s claim that it had revived the Kashmir issue.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“I would say Kargil has damaged the Kashmir cause. It was a disaster bigger than the East Pakistan tragedy. At that time, Pakistan at least had some friends but on Kargil we were friendless. There was no way we could defend this tactless move,Ă˘â‚¬Âť he contended.
Describing Musharraf as Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Mr General U-turn,Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Kuli said: Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“His seven-year rule has been characterized by U-turns on policy matters. This president cannot hold on to anything. He is impulsive. He took decisions on Kargil, Waziristan, Balochistan and a host of other issues and then backtracked on most of them,Ă˘â‚¬Âť he alleged.
Kuli, who belongs to a well-known family from Karak district in NWFP and is related to certain influential politicians, said he had confined himself to running the family business after retirement.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“I have no interest in politics. A number of politicians wanted me to join their parties in any capacity that I wished but I declined the offers,Ă˘â‚¬Âť he recalled. He said he refrained from commenting on government policies until now to avoid confrontation with General Musharraf.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“I could have pinpointed the flaws in the tactical planning for Kargil. There are holes that are obvious. But sometimes one has to keep quiet to avoid harming national interest,Ă˘â‚¬Âť he added.