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Pakistan would have attacked India in 1998

Pakistan would have launched a full-fledged air attack on India in 1998 if India had tried to stop the Pakistani nuclear test at Chagai, Gen Pervez Musharraf was appointed the Army chief because he was a Muhajir and thus would not stage a coup and Aimal Kasi, who attacked the CIA headquarters, was arrested by the CIA inside Pakistan and taken to Washington and Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan handled his case.

These and some other interesting facts about the Pakistani politics and the government have been revealed by former foreign minister Gohar Ayub Khan in his latest book titled ‘Testing Times as Foreign Minister’.

It reveals in the event of an attack on the test site at Chagai by India, attack by the PAF would have been launched on pre-selected targets in India. Pakistan had information and blueprints of the Indian nuclear projects given gratis after the 1984 attack on the Golden Temple, the book said. Foreign intelligence agents were successful in placing an electronic sensing device shaped like a boulder with fibre covering close to the perimeter fence of Kahuta nuclear site, reveals the just launched book.

The book, however, said how long the device continued to work was unknown. But a young shepherd, who was grazing his sheep and goats in the area, while passing by this boulder gave it a hard knock with the back of his axe. A chunk of the disguised boulder fell and inside he found wiring. It was reported and the device was removed. Whoever placed this device must have been very impressed by countermeasures Pakistan was taking for the security of Kahuta as their device was picked up, not knowing it was just a young shepherd boy whose axe did the trick, the book said.

It added since Pakistan became a nuclear state, the chances of a nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan seem to be a very remote possibility but a localised conflict, which is maintained within a certain threshold and does not lead to an open war, cannot be ruled out in future. Tactical nuclear weapons could be used on a formation, which is poised to cut some vital area and has entered Pakistan. The Americans and some other countries were aware of Pakistan’s determination to be a nuclear state.

All efforts by us, saying our programme was for peaceful purposes, were not believed. The Americans would say that the Pakis were lying through their teeth. Foreign agents were very active during the mid-80s to get information on Kahuta and they placed the electronic device.

Another episode relates to the nuclear test that Pakistan carried on in May 1998. Once the decision that Pakistan would test, Five Punjab Sherdil left for Quetta to secure the Chagai test site. They had been guarding the Kahuta project in the mid-80s when there was a threat of an attack on the project by India or Israel or a possible combination of the two. Dr AQ Khan was not included in the team that was to be in the control room to detonate the nuclear devices. It was General Jehangir Karamat (JK), who persuaded Dr Ishfaq Ahmed to take along Dr AQ Khan who was responsible for enrichment of Uranium at Kahuta. Just before the detonation, Dr AQ Khan enquired from Dr Ishfaq Ahmed as to what would happen. His reply was that the mountain would turn white on detonation.

Another event written in the book pertains to the selection of the new Army chief after General JK’s surprise resignation. JK was asked to go after making a suggestion for the establishment of a national security council. The Army officers corps did not like the manner in which JK resigned. They were not going to tolerate a similar sacking in the future. Now started the process to select a new Army chief. Individuals close to the prime minister convinced him that the precedent of appointing the senior-most as the Army chief as was done for JK need not be followed but a Muhajir be selected. This they thought would bring in an Army chief who was not from the provinces from which the bulk of the Army was recruited. Hence, he, in their view, would not be able to stage a coup at any future day because in their thinking he would not be supported for being a Muhajir. These individuals did not know how the Army works. General Ziaul Haq, being a Muhajir, was appointed by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on these considerations but he also did not know the Army’s working. Under these plans, Pervez Musharraf was appointed as the Army chief who, in 1965 and 1971 wars, had not seen an Indian soldier as he was nowhere near the frontlines. The leading supporter of Pervez Musharraf was in fact trying to strengthen his own position for the future and not of Nawaz Sharif. There is no doubt that had there been some other Army chief appointed, there would have been no Kargil and Nawaz Sharif would have continued to be the PM.

Yet another episode says that after meeting Saudi monarch King Fahad bin Abdul Aziz, the delegation went to the state guest house at Riyadh. The time was for Maghrib prayers. There was a small enclosure on the ground floor. There was no prayer leader around so Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif led the prayers. He had a beautiful voice and led the prayer far better than any Maulvi, Gohar Ayub Khan had offered prayers behind. Nawaz Sharif had made a sudden visit to Saudi Arabia mainly to discuss a defence agreement with a Gulf state, which he eventually did not raise. Gohar Ayub writes that he had informed him of its adverse reaction from Iran on the plane coming to Riyadh.

Another incident pertains to Army chief JK’s 11 very damaging points that he spoke in a meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC). It goes like this: complaints were coming in on the state of economy and governance. There had been a strike in Murree and it seemed it could spread to other areas. During this period, a meeting of the DCC was held. Immediately after the recitation from the Holy Qura’an, JK pulled out a small note pad and said he would like to point out some things he had noted. The DCC agenda was put aside and JK sitting opposite to Gohar Ayub opened the notebook and said the law and order situation was deteriorating day by day and went on to complain that whilst his wife was going to the PC Bhurban Hotel, people stopped the car and insisted to look into it to see who was travelling in it. He had 11 very damaging points on his notebook and went into great detail to bring them forth. There was no word from the PM nor the ministers present till JK ended his complaints.

“I really felt that at the end of his discourse he would say now it is over for you jokers, but this did not happen. A few days later, I asked Gen JK if the prime minister has spoken to him later on the points he raised in the DCC. He in his gentle manner stated the prime minister said these points should have been brought to his notice in a one-on-one meeting and should have been avoided in front of ministers, services chiefs and some secretaries as this would spread through the establishment.”

The book also talks about how Aimal Kansi was handed over to the United States. Kansi had killed CIA employees just outside its headquarters at Langley. He fled the US and came to Pakistan. The CIA successfully followed and tracked him down. He was cornered and taken into custody by the Americans. Secretary of State Madeline Albright rang up the prime minister in Istanbul during the D-8 conference in early June 1997 informing him that Kansi was with the Americans and they wanted to take him out of Pakistan immediately and also that it should not come in the press. The prime minister asked her to ring up again after an hour. He contacted Chaudhry Nisar, Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources, to make the necessary arrangements and kept President Farooq Leghari informed. On Madeline Albright’s second call, the prime minister confirmed his eagerness to have Kansi taken out of Pakistan by the Americans. Whilst the prime minister was in Istanbul, back in Islamabad it was Chaudhry Nisar, the pointman in handing over Kansi to the Americans. Yet another episode noted in the book is that India had four MIG-25Rs for high altitude reconnaissance. These aircraft could climb up to 81,000 ft. Pakistan had no fighter interceptor to climb to such height nor any ground-to- air anti-aircraft missiles to shoot such a plane down. These MIG-25Rs had a free run over Pakistan’s vital installations. The PAF had the F-104 Star Fighter which were designed to intercept high-flying Soviet bombers. They could go up to a height of 81,000 ft. These fighters had been phased out some years ago. The PAF knew that the Indian Air Force (IAF) had the MIG-25Rs and as such should have maintained some F-104 Star Fighter to be used as interceptors. The high-cost to maintain them should have been overruled as some could have been cannibalized for parts. In any case, spare parts for the F104 were easily available from some friendly countries.

“We were busy in a parliamentary party meeting in the National Assembly presided over by the prime minister when a messenger informed me that Air Chief Marshal Farooq Feroze wanted to speak to me. I went to the green line telephone (phone which scrambles conversations). He informed me that his fighters were ready to take off and enter India from three directions in retaliation to the IAF MIG-25Rs flight over Islamabad breaking the sound barrier at 72,000 ft a few days ago. He wanted the prime minister’s approval. Which areas of India will you fly over, I asked and found that there was no population in their flight path. I told the air marshal that no Indian except that radar and some senior air force officers would know about these intrusions. I suggested we must fly over Delhi. Get me the permission, said the air marshal. I went back to the committee room and informed the prime minister about the air marshal’s suggested flight path and my suggestions that we fly over Delhi. No need to do either, said the prime minister. I went back and informed the air marshal to stand down.”

Gohar Ayub wrote I had been invited to South Africa by Foreign Minister Alfred B Nzo. On the flight to Johannesburg, a magazine I was glancing through had a detailed article with graphic pictures of bear baiting in Quetta. The author tried to convey how cruel this practice was. A tame bear whose teeth are pulled out when he is young is tied to a stake, then two Bull Terrier dogs are released on him. Sometime the bear does manage to hold one of the dogs in its arms and crushes it and on occasions takes a swipe to tear off large chunks of flesh from the dogs, but usually it is the dogs who get the better of the poor bear. On return, I mentioned this article and the cruelty involved and requested the prime minister in a cabinet meeting to put a ban on bear baiting and also on the dog fight. To my surprise, the prime minister said, Gohar Sahib, have the bullfights in Spain, Portugal, central and South America first stopped and then we can look into a ban you propose.”

By Tariq Butt, The News, 18-Apr-09

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