|HOME | NEWS | THE KARGIL CRISIS | SPECIAL|
June 29, 1999
The Rediff Special/Amberish K Diwanji
Catch-22 for Nawaz Sharief
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief's decision to cut short his five-day visit to China and return to Islamabad in just two days indicates the vast rift that exists between the civilian leadership and the military in Pakistan.
The China trip was particularly important since Islamabad has been completely isolated in international fora on Kargil.
Sharief is visiting Hong Kong this evening and will be back in Islamabad tomorrow morning.
The external affairs ministry in New Delhi officially maintained that it had no inkling of what prompted Sharief to cut short his visit. But it expressed satisfaction that the Pakistani premier had got little to cheer in his talks with the Chinese leadership on Kargil.
Unofficially, some hypotheses are being offered for Sharief's hasty return from what was supposed to be an important visit to Pakistan's best friend. One is that Pakistan may be planning a major offensive against India. Another is that the army may have been planning to take over the country, or at least sideline the civilian leadership.
A source said the external affairs ministry gives more credence to the second suggestion, pointing out that a major offensive would have been planned well in advance.
The source said the sudden return clearly reveals the tight spot Sharief is in now. "He is trapped. Internationally Pakistan is isolated and broke, and he has to salvage the situation or there will be a political backlash. But if he asks the armed intruders and the army to withdraw, then too there will be a political backlash that will cost him dear. And the army will ensure he loses his job."
The source pointed out that the leakage of the news of former foreign secretary Niaz Naik's visit to Delhi was further proof, if any was needed, of the deep divide in that country's establishment.
"Naik was sent on a top-secret mission as the special emissary of Nawaz Sharief. When such a secret mission takes place, less than half-a-dozen people even know that it is happening. These would have been Sharief and top foreign ministry officials only.
"But some others too came to know of Naik's visit and promptly leaked the news to the media. By making the visit public, they destroyed whatever chance of success it might have had."
So hush-hush was Naik's visit that India acknowledged the presence of the special emissary only after it was leaked to the media in Pakistan. And once the news was leaked, both sides maintained that they stood by their earlier positions.
According to the source, Naik had visited New Delhi with a proposal that would help resolve the conflict in Kargil, yet allow Sharief to save face and his political career.
"I don't exactly know what proposal Naik had [some news reports claimed that Sharief's emissary sought safe passage for the intruders, but this has not been confirmed], but one thing is for sure: New Delhi is in no mood to help anyone anywhere save his political skin. It is a lesson we have learnt bitterly from history," said the source.
The reference was to the 1972 Simla talks between Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her counterpart in Islamabad, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. India then held all the aces -- 93,000 Pakistani prisoners of war, huge tracts of Pakistani land, and a devastated Pakistan -- yet the talks failed to resolve the Kashmir dispute.
"We could have once and for all resolved Kashmir by turning the Line of Control into an international border. But Bhutto was literally down on his knees, begging Indira Gandhi not to force the demand. He said that if he agreed, his political career would be destroyed. He promised that within a year, he would agree to turn the LoC into an international border. But after he went back to Pakistan and took up the political reins again, he forgot his promise and we are still paying the price for that historical blunder," said the source.
It is for this reason that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, already feeling betrayed by the Pakistanis who welcomed him to Lahore and then attacked Kargil, is in no mood to soften his stand that the intruders must leave.
"Frankly, no one really cares what happens in Pakistan, whether the army rules or the civilians rule, because when it comes to Kashmir, there is no difference in their policy," said the source.
A question that may be asked is if Sharief does not call the shots, what's the use talking to him? But, as an external affairs ministry official pointed out, "Regardless of the internal dynamics and politics of Pakistan, we can only deal with their government. We have no choice in the matter but to hope that his authority will prevail."
Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund is likely to debate soon whether the next tranche of loans to Islamabad, due in July, should be stopped until Pakistan pulls out the intruders.
The United States is contemplating such action, which will strike a hard blow to an already weak Pakistan. And with the army and Islamic fanatics determined to hold on to the Kargil heights and fight the Indian Army, Sharief has his task cut out.
BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | GIFT SHOP | HOTEL RESERVATIONS | WORLD CUP 99
EDUCATION | PERSONAL HOMEPAGES | FREE EMAIL | FEEDBACK