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Over 4,000 soldiers killed in Kargil: Sharif

By B. Muralidhar Reddy

ISLAMABAD Aug. 16 . The former Pakistan Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, claimed that more than 4,000 Pakistani troops and officials were killed in the Kargil conflict.

While Mr. Sharif accused the Pakistan military in general and the then Army Chief, Pervez Musharraf, of undertaking the Kargil operations without the knowledge of his government, it is for the first time he has come out with concrete figures of the casualty on the Pakistani side.

The Pakistan Government had consistently denied charges of its involvement in the Kargil War and claimed it to be an operation conducted entirely by the Mujahideen (holy warriors). Several months later it indirectly acknowledged its participation by decorating some of its soldiers who died in the conflict.

In recent times, Mr. Sharif has been harping on Kargil as an example of failure of the military leadership of Gen. Musharraf.

Mr. Sharif, in exile in Saudi Arabia under a pact with the Musharraf regime, in a first ever on record interview some weeks back had threatened to "reveal all" about the "Kargil misadventure".

In his message to a rally organised by the Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD) at Lahore on Thursday to demand the resignation of Gen. Musharraf as Army Chief and President, Mr. Sharif said the Kargil plan was prepared by Gen. Musharraf without the knowledge of his government.

The conflict had resulted in derailing the process of normalising relations between the two countries. Had it not been done, he claimed the Kashmir dispute would have been resolved long ago. Pakistan was defeated in Kargil, but as the Pakistan Prime Minister he covered it up by undertaking a visit to the United States, he said.

Mr. Sharif visited Washington and gave an undertaking to the Clinton Administration to withdraw Pakistan forces.

He argued that had he accepted defeat then, it would have demoralised the army and India would have got an opportunity to invade Pakistan.

He alleged that the mastermind of the Kargil operation, instead of accepting responsibility and resigning voluntarily, overthrew the elected government under the diktat from some "other quarters".

Mr. Sharif said Gen. Musharraf was behind the protests "staged" on the arrival of Mr. Vajpayee in 1999. (The Jamaat-e-Islami had organised street protests against the February 1999 visit of Mr. Vajpayee to Lahore).

Mr. Vajpayee was not given the honour equal to that accorded to the delegation of parliamentarians and journalists, which visited Pakistan a few days ago.

On problems faced by the country, he said they were the result of subversion of the 1973 Constitution and imposition of the Legal Framework Order, which incorporates the changes made by Gen. Musharraf.

"The enemy to the Constitution was more dangerous than the external enemy."

Former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, in her message appealed to the military to shun luxury and follow the steps of the late Gen. Tikka Khan, who, instead of trying to get plots and plazas, had led a simple life. They should also follow former Army chiefs like Gen. Waheed Kakar, Gen. Jehangir Karamat and the late Gen. Asif Nawaz who had not used their position to take over political power, she said.

Ms. Bhutto said that her party had held talks with the military leadership during the last three years to find a honourable way to establish a Constitutional government in the country, but the latter had not honoured its commitments. "They were not sincere with us as we had refused to endorse the military rule".

The ARD pledged on the 56th Independence Day of the country to fight a decisive battle to obviate the possibility of military takeovers in the future and to make Pakistan a country as envisioned by the Quaid-i-Azam, the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif.

At a public meeting at the historic Mochi Gate, thousands of participants raised their hands in support when the leaders of various alliance groups resolved to banish dictatorship, throw away the LFO and bring back former Prime Ministers, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.

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