28 January 2009

Kargil Conflict and Pakistan Air Force

Pakistani writings on Kargil conflict have been few; those that did come out were largely irrelevant and in a few cases, were clearly sponsored. The role of the PAF has been discussed off and on, but mostly disparagingly, particularly in some uninformed quarters. Here is an airman’s perspective, focusing on the IAF’s air operations and the PAF’s position.

Operational Planning in the PAF

Since an important portion of this write-up pertains to the PAF’s appreciation of the situation and the decision-making loop during the Kargil conflict, we will start with a brief primer on PAF’s hierarchy and how operational matters are handled at the Air Headquarters.

The policy-making elements at Air Headquarters consist of four-tiers of staff officers. The top-most tier is made up of the Deputy Chiefs of Air Staff (DCAS) who are the Principal Staff Officers (PSOs) of their respective branches and are nominally headed by the Vice Chief of Air Staff (VCAS). They (along with Air Officers Commanding, the senior representatives from field formations) are members of the Air Board, PAF’s ‘corporate’ decision-making body which is chaired by the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS). The next tier is made up of Assistant Chiefs of Air Staff (ACAS) who head various sub-branches, and along with the third-tier Directors, assist the PSOs in policy-making; they are not on the Air Board, but can be called for hearings and presentations in the Board meetings, as required. A fourth tier of Deputy Directors does most of the sundry staff work in this policy-making hierarchy.

The Operations & Plans branch is the key player in any war, conflict or contingency and is responsible for threat assessment and formulation of a suitable response. During peace-time, war plans are drawn up by the Plans sub-branch and are then war-gamed in operational exercises run by the sister Operations sub-branch. Operational training is accordingly restructured and administered by the latter, based on the lessons of various exercises. This essentially is the gist of PAF’s operational preparedness methodology, the efficiency of which is amply reflected in its readiness and telling response in various wars and skirmishes in the past.

In early 1999, Air Chief Marshal Parvaiz Mehdi Qureshi was at the helm of the PAF. An officer with an imposing personality, he had won the Sword of Honour at the Academy. During the 1971 Indo-Pak War, as a young Flight Lieutenant, he was on a close support mission in erstwhile East Pakistan when his Sabre was shot down and he was taken POW. He determinedly resumed his fighter pilot’s career after repatriation and rose to command PAF’s premier Sargodha Base. He was later appointed as the AOC, Southern Air Command, an appointment that affords considerable interaction amongst the three services, especially in operational exercises. He also held the vitally important post of DCAS (Ops) as well as the VCAS before taking over as CAS.

The post of DCAS (Ops) was held by the late Air Marshal Zahid Anis. A well-qualified fighter pilot, he had a distinguished career in the PAF, having held some of the most sought-after appointments. These included command of No 38 Tactical Wing (F-16s), the elite Combat Commanders’ School and PAF Base, Sargodha. He was the AOC, Southern Air Command before his appointment as the head of the Operations branch at the Air Headquarters. He had done his Air War Course at the PAF’s Air War College, another War Course at the French War College as well as the prestigious Defence Studies course at the Royal College of Defence Studies in UK.

The ACAS (Ops) was Air Cdre Abid Rao, who had recently completed command of PAF Base, Mianwali. He had earlier done his War Course from the French War College.

The ACAS (Plans) was the late Air Cdre Saleem Nawaz, a brilliant officer who had made his mark at the Staff College at Bracknell, UK and during the War Course at the National Defence College, Islamabad.

There is no gainsaying the fact that PAF’s hierarchy was highly qualified, and that each one of the players in the Operations branch had the requisite command and staff experience. The two top men had also fought in the 1971 Indo-Pak War, albeit as junior officers.

First Rumblings

As Director of Operations (in the rank of Gp Capt), my first opportunity to interact with the Army’s Director of Military Operations (DMO) was over a phone call, some time in March 1999. Brig Nadeem Ahmed called with great courtesy and requested some information that he needed for a paper exercise, as he told me. He wanted to know when had the PAF last carried out a deployment at Skardu, how many aircraft were deployed, etc. Rather impressed with the Army’s interest in PAF matters, I passed on the requisite details. The next day, Brig Nadeem called again, but this time his questions were more probing and he wanted some classified information including fuel storage capacity at Skardu, fighter sortie-generation capacity, radar coverage, etc. He insisted that he was preparing a briefing and wanted to get his facts and figures right, in front of his bosses. We got on a secure telephone line and I passed on the required information. Although he made it sound like routine contingency planning, I sensed that something unusual was brewing. In the event, I thought it prudent to inform the DCAS (Ops). Just to be sure, he checked up with his counterpart, the Director General Military Operations (DGMO), Maj Gen Tauqir Zia, who said the same thing as his DMO, and assured that it was just part of routine contingency planning

Not withstanding the DGMO’s assurance, a cautious Air Marshal Zahid decided to check things for himself and despatched Gp Capt Tariq Ashraf, Officer Commanding of No 33 Wing at PAF Base, Kamra, to look matters over at Skardu and make a report. Within a few days, Gp Capt Tariq (who was also the designated war-time commander of Skardu Base) had completed his visit, which included his own periodic war-readiness inspection. While he made a detailed report to the DCAS (Ops), he let me in on the Army’s mobilisation and other preparations that he had seen in Skardu. His analysis was that ‘something big is imminent.’ Helicopter flying activity was feverishly high as Army Aviation’s Mi-17s were busy moving artillery guns and ammunition to the mountain tops. Troops in battle gear were to be seen all over the city. Interestingly, Messes were abuzz with war chatter amongst young officers. In retrospect, one wonders how Indian intelligence agencies failed to read any such signs, many weeks before the operation unfolded.

After hearing Gp Capt Tariq’s report, Air Marshal Zahid again got in touch with Maj Gen Tauqir, and in a roundabout way, told him that if the Army’s ongoing ‘review of contingency plans’ required the PAF to be factored in, an Operations & Plans team would be available for discussion. Nothing was heard from the GHQ till 12 May, when Air Marshal Zahid was told to send a team for a briefing at HQ 10 Corps with regard to the ‘Kashmir Contingency’.

Air Cdre Abid Rao, Air Cdre Saleem Nawaz and myself were directed by the DCAS (Ops) to attend a briefing on the ‘latest situation in Kashmir’ at HQ 10 Corps. We were welcomed by the Chief of Staff (COS) of the Corps, who led us to the briefing room. Shortly thereafter, the Corps Commander, Lt Gen Mahmood Ahmed entered, cutting an impressive figure clad in a bush-coat and his trademark camouflage scarf. After exchanging pleasantries, the COS started with the map orientation briefing. Thereafter, Lt Gen Mahmood took over and broke the news that a limited operation had started two days earlier. It was nothing more than a ‘protective manoeuvre’, he explained, and was meant to foreclose any further mischief by the enemy, who had been a nuisance in the Neelum Valley, specially on the road on our side of the Line of Control (LOC). He then elaborated that a few vacant Indian posts had been occupied on peaks across the LOC, overlooking the Dras-Kargil Road. These would, in effect, serve the purpose of Airborne Observation Posts (AOP) meant for directing artillery fire with accuracy. Artillery firepower would be provided by a few field guns that had been heli-lifted to the heights, piecemeal, and re-assembled over the previous few months when the Indians had been off-guard during the winter extremes. The target was a vulnerable section of Dras-Kargil Road, whose blocking would virtually cut off the crucial life-line which carried the bulk of supplies needed for daily consumption as well as annual winter-stocking in Leh-Siachen Sector. He was very hopeful that this stratagem could choke off the Indians in the vital sector for up to a month, after which the monsoons would prevent vehicular movement (due to landslides), and also suspend all airlift by the IAF. “Come October, we shall walk in to Siachen – to mop up the dead bodies of hundreds of Indians left hungry, out in the cold,” he succinctly summed up what appeared to be a new dimension to the Siachen dispute. It also seemed to serve, at least for the time being, the secondary aim of alleviating Indian military pressure on Pakistani lines of communications in the Neelum Valley that the Corps Commander had alluded to in his opening remarks. (The oft-heard strategic aim of ‘providing a fillip to the insurgency in Kashmir’ was never mentioned.)

When Lt Gen Mahmood asked for questions at the end of the rather crisp and to-the-point briefing, Air Cdre Saleem Nawaz opened up by inquiring about the type of air support that might be needed for the operation. Lt Gen Mahmood assured us that air support was not envisaged and that his forces could take care of enemy aircraft, if they intervened. “I have Stingers on every peak,” he announced. Air Cdre Saleem tried to point out the limited envelope of these types of missiles, and said that nothing stopped the IAF from attacking the posts and artillery pieces from high altitude. To this, Lt Gen Mahmood’s reply was that his troops were well camouflaged and concealed, and that IAF pilots would not be able to pick out the posts from the air. As the discussion became more animated, I asked the Corps Commander if he was sure the Indians would not use their artillery to vacate our incursion, given the criticality of the situation from their standpoint. He replied that the Dras-Kargil stretch did not allow for positioning of the hundreds of guns that would be required, due to lack of depth; in any case, it would be suicidal for the Indians to denude artillery firepower from any other sector as defensive balance had to be maintained. He gave the example of the Kathua-Jammu Sector where the Indians had a compulsion to keep the bulk of their modern Bofors guns due to vulnerability of the vital road link to our offensive elements.

It seemed from the Corps Commander’s smug appreciation of the situation that the Indians had been tightly straitjacketed in Dras-Kargil Sector and had no option but to submit to our operational design. More significantly, an alternate action like a strategic riposte by the Indians in another sector had been rendered out of question, given the nuclear environment. Whether resort to an exterior manoeuvre (diplomatic offensive) by the beleaguered Indians had crossed the planners’ minds, it was not discernable in the Corps Commander’s elucidation.

Perhaps it was the incredulousness of the whole thing that led Air Cdre Abid Rao to famously quip, “After this operation, it’s going to be either a Court Martial or Martial Law!” as we walked out of the briefing room.

Back at the Air Headquarters, we briefed the DCAS(Ops) about what had transpired at the 10 Corps briefing. His surprise at the developments, as well as his concern about the possibility of events spiralling out of control, could not remain concealed behind his otherwise unflappable demeanour. We all were also piqued at being left out of the Army’s planning, though we were given to believe that it was a ‘limited tactical action’ in which the PAF would not be required – an issue that none of us agreed with. Presented with a fait accompli, we decided not to lose any more time, and while the DCAS (Ops) went to brief the CAS about the situation, we set about gearing up for a hectic routine. The operations room was quickly updated with the latest large-scale maps and air recce photos of the area; communications links with concerned agencies were also revamped in a short time. Deployment orders were issued, and within the next 48 hours, the bulk of combat elements were in-situ at their war locations.

IAF – By Fits & Starts

The IAF deployments in Kashmir, for what came to be known as ‘Operation Safedsagar’, commenced on 15 May with the bulk of operational assets positioned by 18 May. 150 combat aircraft were deployed as follows:

> Srinagar - 34 (MiG-21, MiG-23, MiG-27)
> Awantipur - 28 (MiG-21, MiG-29, Jaguar)
> Udhampur - 12 (MiG-21)
> Pathankot - 30 (MiG-21, MiG-23)
> Adampur - 46 (Mir-2000, MiG-29, Jaguar)

One-third of the aircraft were modern, ‘high-threat’ fighters equipped with Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air-to-air missiles. During the preparatory stage, air defence alert status (5 minutes to scramble from ground) was maintained while Mirage-2000s and Jaguars carried out photo-reconnaissance along the Line of Control (LOC) and aging Canberras carried out electronic intelligence (ELINT) to ferret out locations of PAF air defence sensors. Last minute honing of strafing and rocketing skills was carried out by pilots at an air-to-ground firing range near Leh.

Operations by IAF started in earnest on 26 May, 17 days after a major attack by Pakistani infiltrators on an ammunition dump in Kargil. The salient feature of this initial phase was strafing and rocketing of the intruders’ positions by MiG-21, MiG-23BN and MiG-27. All operations (except air defence) came to a sudden standstill on 28 May, after two IAF fighters and a helicopter were lost – a MiG-21 and a Mi-17 to Pak Army surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), while a MiG-27 went down due to engine trouble caused by gun gas ingestion during high altitude strafing. (Incidentally, the pilot of the MiG-27 Flt Lt Nachiketa, who ejected and was apprehended, had a tête-à-tête with this author during an interesting ‘interrogation’ session.)

The results achieved by the IAF in the first two days were dismal. Serious restraints seem to have been imposed on the freedom of action of IAF fighters in what was basically a search-and-destroy mission. Lt Gen Mahmood’s rant about a ‘Stinger on every peak’ seemed true. It was obvious that the IAF had under-estimated the SAM threat. The mood in Pak Army circles was that of undiluted elation, and the PAF was expected to sit it out while sharing the khakis’ glee.

The IAF immediately went into a reappraisal mode and came out with GPS-assisted high altitude bombing by MiG-21, MiG-23BN and MiG-27 as a makeshift solution. In the meantime, quick modification on the Mirage-2000 for day/night laser bombing kits (Litening pods) was initiated with the help of Israelis. Conventional bombing that started incessantly after a two-day operational hiatus, was aimed at harassment and denial of respite to the infiltrators, with consequent adverse effects on morale. The results of this part of the campaign were largely insignificant, mainly because the target coordinates were not known accurately; the nature of the terrain too, precluded precision. A few cases of fratricide by IAF led it to be even more cautious.

By 16 June, IAF was able to open up the laser-guided bombing campaign with the help of Jaguars and Mirage-2000. Daily photo-recce along the LOC by Jaguars escorted by Mirage-2000s, which had continued from the beginning of operations, proved crucial to both the aerial bombing campaign as well as the Indian artillery, helping the latter in accurately shelling Pakistani positions in the Dras-Kargil and Gultari Sectors. While the photo-recce missions typically did not involve deliberate border violations, there were a total of 37 ‘technical violations’ (which emanate as a consequence of kinks and bends in the geographical boundaries). Typically, these averaged to a depth of five nautical miles, except on one occasion when the IAF fighters apparently cocked-a-snoot at the PAF and came in 13 miles deep.

The Mirage-2000s scored at least five successful laser-guided bomb hits on forward dumping sites and posts. During the last days of operations which ended on 12 July, it was clear that delivery accuracy had improved considerably. Even though night bombing accuracy was suspect, round-the-clock attacks had made retention of posts untenable for Pakistani infiltrators. Photo-recce of Pakistani artillery gun positions also made them vulnerable to Indian artillery.

The IAF flew a total of 550 strike missions against infiltrator positions including bunkers and supply depots. The coordinates of these locations were mostly picked up from about 150 reconnaissance and communications intelligence missions. In addition, 500 missions were flown for air defence and for escorting strike and recce missions.

While the Indians had been surprised by the infiltration in Kargil, the IAF mobilised and reacted rapidly as the Indian Army took time to position itself. Later, when the Indian Army had entrenched itself, the IAF supplemented and filled in where the artillery could not be positioned in force. Clearly, Army-Air joint operations had a synergistic effect in evicting the intruders.

PAF in a Bind

From the very beginning of Kargil operations, PAF was entrapped by a circumstantial absurdity: it was faced with the ludicrous predicament of having to provide air support to infiltrators already disowned by the Pakistan Army leadership! In any case, it took some effort to impress on the latter that crossing the LOC by fighters laden with bombs was not, by any stretch of imagination, akin to lobbing a few artillery shells to settle scores. There was no doubt in the minds of PAF Air Staff that the first cross-border attack (whether across LOC or the international border) would invite an immediate response from the IAF, possibly in the shape of a retaliatory strike against the home base of the intruding fighters, thus starting the first round. PAF’s intervention meant all-out war: this unmistakable conclusion was conveyed to the Prime Minister, Mr Nawaz Sharif, by the Air Chief in no equivocal terms.

Short of starting an all-out war, PAF looked at some saner options that could put some wind in the sails after doldrums had been hit. Air Marshal Najib Akhtar, the Air Officer Commanding of Air Defence Command was co-opted by the Air Staff to sift the possibilities. Audacious and innovative in equal parts, Air Marshal Najib had an excellent knowledge about our own and the enemy’s Air Defence Ground Environment (ADGE). He had conceived and overseen the unprecedented heli-lift of a low-looking radar to a 12,000-ft mountain top on the forbidding, snow-clad Deosai Plateau. The highly risky operation became possible with the help of some courageous flying by Army Aviation pilots. With good low level radar cover now available up to the LOC, Air Marshal Najib along with the Air Staff focused on fighter sweep (a mission flown to destroy patrolling enemy fighters) as a possible option.

To prevent the mission from being seen as an escalatory step in the already charged atmosphere, PAF had to lure Indian fighters into its own territory, ie Azad Kashmir or the Northern Areas. That done, a number of issues had to be tackled. What if the enemy aircraft were hit in our territory but fell across, providing a pretext to India as a doubly aggrieved party? What if one of our own aircraft fell, no matter if the exchange was one-to-one (or better)? Finally, even if we were able to pull off a surprise, would it not be a one-off incident, with the IAF becoming wiser in quick time? The over-arching consideration was the BVR missile capability of IAF fighters which impinged unfavourably on the mission success probability. The conclusion was that a replication of the famous four-Vampire rout of 1st September 1965 by two Sabres might not be possible. The idea of a fighter sweep thus fizzled out as quickly as it came up for discussion.

While the PAF looked at some offensive options, it had a more pressing defensive issue at hand. The IAF’s minor border violations during recce missions were not of grave consequence in so far as no bombing had taken place in our territory; however, the fact that these missions helped the enemy refine its air and artillery targeting, was, to say the least, disconcerting. There were constant reports of our troops on the LOC disturbed to see, or hear, IAF fighters operating with apparent impunity. The GHQ took the matter up with the AHQ and it was resolved that Combat Air Patrols (CAPs) would be flown by the F-16s operating out of Minhas (Kamra) and Sargodha. This arrangement resulted in less on-station time but was safer than operating out of vulnerable Skardu, which had inadequate early warning in the mountainous terrain; its status as a turn-around facility was, however, considered acceptable for its location. A flight of F-7s was, nonetheless, deployed primarily for point defence of the important garrison town of Skardu as well as the air base.

F-16 CAPs could not have been flown all day long as spares support was limited under the prevailing US sanctions. Random CAPs were resorted to, with a noticeable drop in border violations only as long as the F-16s were on station. There were a few cases of F-16s and Mirage-2000s locking their adversaries with the on-board radars, but caution usually prevailed and no close encounters took place. After one week of CAPs, the F-16 maintenance personnel indicated that war reserve spares were being eaten into and that the activity had to be ‘rationalised’, a euphemism for discontinuing it altogether. That an impending war occupied the Air Staff’s minds was evident in the decision by the DCAS (Ops) for F-16 CAPs to be discontinued, unless IAF activity became unbearably provocative or threatening.

Those not aware of the gravity of the F-16 operability problem under sanctions have complained of the PAF’s lack of cooperation. Suffice it to say that if the PAF had been included in the initial planning, this anomaly (along with many others) would have emerged as a mitigating factor against the Kargil adventure. It is another matter that the Army high command did not envisage operations ever coming to such a pass. Now, it was almost as if the PAF was to blame for the Kargil venture spiralling out of control.

It must also be noted  that other than F-16s, the PAF did not have a capable enough fighter for patrolling, as the minimum requirement in this scenario was an on-board airborne intercept radar, exceptional agility and sufficient staying power. F-7s had reasonably good manoeuvrability but lacked an intercept radar as well as endurance, while the ground attack Mirage-III/5s and A-5s were sitting ducks for the air combat mission.

In sum, the PAF found it expedient not to worry too much about minor border violations and instead, conserve resources for the larger conflagration that was looming. All the same, it gave the enemy no pretext for retaliation in the face of any provocation, though this latter stance irked some quarters in the Army that were desperate to ‘equal the match’. Might it strike to some that PAF’s restraint in warding off a major conflagration may have been its paramount contribution to the Kargil conflict?


It has emerged that there were four principal protagonists of the Kargil adventure viz, General Pervez Musharraf: Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt Gen Aziz Khan: Chief of General Staff (CGS), Lt Gen Mahmood Ahmed: Commander 10 Corps, and Maj Gen Javed Hasan: Commander Force Command Northern Areas (FCNA). The clique, in previous ranks and appointments, had been associated with planning during paper exercises on how to wrest control of lost territory in Siachen. The DGMO, Maj Gen Tauqir Zia was less than enthusiastic about the plan, but went along anyway.

The plan had once earlier been out up to the previous Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, but she had not found it acceptable due to possible international repercussions. She was well-versed in geopolitics, and all too intelligent to be taken in by the chicanery. It fell to the wisdom of her successor, Mr Nawaz Sharif, to approve the Army clique's self-serving briefing.

In an effort to keep the plan secret, which was thought to be the key to its successful initiation, the Army trio took no one into confidence, neither its own operational commanders nor the heads of the other services. This, regrettably, resulted in a closed-loop thought process which engendered a string of oversights and failures:
  • Failure to grasp the wider military and diplomatic ramifications of a limited tactical operation that had the potential of creating major strategic effects.
  • Failure to correctly visualise the response of a powerful enemy to what was, in effect, a major blow in a disputed sector.
  • Failure to spell out the specific aim to field commanders, who acted on their own to needlessly capture territory and expand the scope of the operation to unmanageable levels.
  • Failure to appreciate the inability of the Army officers to evaluate the capabilities and limitations of an Air Force.
  • Failure to coordinate contingency plans at the tri-services level.
The flaws in the Kargil Plan that led to these failures were almost palpable, and could not have escaped even a layman’s attention during a cursory examination. The question arises as to why all the planners got blinded to the obvious? Could it be that some of the sub-ordinates had the sight but not the nerve in the face of a powerful superior? In hierarchical organisations, there is precious little room for dissent, but in autocratic ones like the military, it takes more than a spine to disagree, for there are very few commanders who are large enough to allow such liberties. It is out of fear of annoying the superior – which also carries with it manifold penalties and loss of promotion and perks – that the majority decide to go along with the wind.

In a country where democratic traditions have never been deep-rooted, it is no big exposé to point out that the military is steeped in an authoritarian, rather than a consensual approach. To my mind, there is an urgent need to inculcate a more liberal culture that accommodates different points of view – a more lateral approach, so to speak. Disagreement during planning should be systemically tolerated, and not taken as a personal affront. Unfortunately, many in higher ranks seem to think that rank alone confers wisdom, and anyone displaying signs of intelligence at an earlier stage is, somehow, an alien in their ‘star-spangled’ universe.

Kargil, I suspect, like the ‘65 and ‘71 Wars, was a case of not having enough dissenters (‘devil’s advocates’, if you will) during planning, because everyone wanted to agree with the boss. That single reason, I think, was the root cause of most of the failures that were apparent right from the beginning. If this point is understood well, remedial measures towards tolerance and liberalism can follow as a matter of course. Such an organisational milieu, based on honest appraisal and fearless appeal, would be conducive to sound and sensible planning. It would also go a long way in precluding Kargil-like disasters.


Come change-over time of the Chief of Air Staff in 2001, President Musharraf struck at PAF’s top leadership in what can only be described as implacable action: he passed over all five Air Marshals and appointed the sixth-in-line who was practically an Air Vice Marshal till a few weeks before. While disregarding of seniority in the appointment of service chiefs has historically been endemic in the country, the practice has been seen as breeding nepotism and partiality, besides leaving a trail of conjecture and gossip in the ranks. Given Air Chief Marshal Mehdi’s rather straight-faced and forthright dealings with General Musharraf, particularly during Kargil conflict, there is good reason to believe that the latter decided to appoint a not-very-senior Air Chief whom he could order around like one of his Corps Commanders. (As it turned out, Air Chief Marshal Mus’haf was as solid as his predecessor and gave no quarter when it came to PAF’s interests.) Whatever the reason of bypassing seniority, it was unfortunate that PAF’s precious corporate experience was thrown out so crassly and several careers destroyed. Lives and honour lost in Kargil is another matter.


This article was published in Air Forces Monthly (UK) - June 2009 issue, under the title 'Himalayan Showdown'. The article was also published in Defence Journal (Pak), May 2009 issue.


Anonymous said...

From the other side,
Forthright and very well analysed piece of writing.
For the first time i was able to read an account of the PAF side.
Thank you very much for sharing it with us.

Anonymous said...

Very well written. Infact, PAF has time and again proved it is more professional and acts with wisdom than its other sister services (specially PAF) I sincerely believe had the trio consulted PAF, the whole kargil episode would not have taken place

Anonymous said...

Well written. Self apprisal at times saves from disasters.

Anonymous said...

Informative, crisp and detached...

Anonymous said...

Written in unambiguous term and depicted a truthful picture of the other side.Service men and civilians view the war picture from different angle.Arrogant misadventure by PAF could lead to full fledged war.Neither side win in a war,history speaks itself.

Anonymous said...

Well a balanced article.. One has to understand the trauma of PA after espicially the 71' debacle. Rationality of successive generations of PA officers has been clouded by the events as they seek to redeem their honour and dignity ( though suffering more damage everytime from siachen to kargil....). Also they still believe in this 1 muslim = 10 hindus bullshit. PAF on the contrary can be justifiably proud of its accomplishments inspite of being treated poorly by PA. They have no such delusions and are as level headed as you find them anywhere in the world.

Qasim said...

A very interesting article. Kargil can not be understood without looking at the bigger picture of which it is a part. This Kargil region has traded hands a number of times, in the aftermath of the number of wars we've had with India.

Kashmir was and is an unjust occupation, one from a number of remnants of the partition. India's access to Kashmir was maintained by denying Pakistan Firozpur, which was a Muslim majority area, and belonged to Pakistan if the principles the partition was supposed to be carried out under were to be followed(Firozpur would also have given Pakistan one well-supplied garrison, which the British were against - it is a historic fact that British artillery guns were dumped off the Karachi sea port, rather than given to Pak).

Taking advantage of our weak military and financial position, our adversary maintained a hypocritical stance, occupying Kashmir because the Hindu ruler of a Muslim majority area voted for India, while occupying Hyderabad where a Muslim ruler of a Hindu-majority ruler voted for Pakistan. Many other areas, such as Junagadh and Manavadar also voted for Pakistan, but were anexed in utter disregard of the principles of the partition by India, because we were weak. The complete and utter lack of any concrete British response or action to all this can only be taken as evidence of their impartiality in hindsight. Their last viceroy was commanding British forces in Kashmir, while the British officers in Pakistan refused to follow orders.

How can any self-respecting nation accept such treachery. Whenever we are in a weak position, this country tries to victimize it. From 1965, where they crossed the international border and attacked at what they thought was a defenseless Lahore after Pakistan's activities at a ceasefire line(the Israelis broke their ceasefire and redefined the areas under their control three times, under this same UN that berates us). In '71 they again crossed an international border and split off our province - and the mukthi bahini were trained on Indian soil. In the 80's when the Soviets were amassing armour across our western border the Indians followed suit on our east, trying to take advantage of our weak situation again. Even now, weaponry from Indian ordinance factories is frequently recovered in the tribal areas.

How am I supposed to feel when SU-30s with full armament cross my country's international border after a hostile country conducted a ridiculous sham attack in some hotel in Bombay where 7 men take over a 300-room building for almost a week(with the Indian police/military unable to make a move... comeon, THREE-HUNDRED rooms, those 7 men couldn't even logistically cover an area half that big) and the concrete evidence they come up with to blame Pak for that is that the terrorists carried *sacks* full of Pakistani products(sufi soap, rooh-Afza).

Every single time our adversary has gotten an opportunity to stab us in the back, they have done it. Exactly according to the chankiya philosophy that they follow. How is any Pakistani supposed to feel when they look at this colorful history of deceit. India is perhaps the only country in the world that has disputes with each and every country surrounding it.

As a Pakistani when I hear about 19-year olds being shot every few days and bodies of raped muslim girls being recovered from streams in Kashmir where India has stationed an army as big as Pakistan's entire armed forces, I wish that Pakistan becomes a might to be reckoned with Inshallah, and then educates these people in the consequences that their actions can have.

Anonymous said...

@ Qasim..

very nicely written post. But now with the growing economy of india and not growing economy of pakistan, any such misadventure will back fire.

anish said...

a good one.
gave a clearer logical picture of something that has been painted in all shades satisfying individual fancies on both sides of the border.
a worthy piece from a soldier.

Anonymous said...

Very nicely worded piece Mr Tufail. Would you care to elaborate on your interesting interrogation session of Flt Lt Nachiketa.
Thank You

Sanket Korgaonkar said...

The article is as crisp as a soldier's uniform. Excellent indeed. I was wanting to ask - what is your opinion on the MIG 21 - being a fighter pilot yourself. The Indian media has at several points of time - named it the flying coffin.

Nagaraj, India said...

Very good and unbiased article.
Can you express your views on SU 30MKI and LCA Tejas ?

Anonymous said...

KAISER TUFAIL bhai, We are waiting for your next blog. Pls keep writing.
Nagaraj, India

Anonymous said...


Sorry Qasim probably not everybody agrees to your comments, juts look at the total lives lost either in India or in Pakistan due to the three wars and Kargil ? What did either of us gain...? and the British anyway made a fool and mockery of un-partitioned India. Individual valour and courage from the armed forces of either side cannot be negated, but as people of two neighbouring countries we should look at our history and learn from our mistakes and have good relation and build a strong Pakistan and a Strong India. Muslims or Hindus or from any other religion, we might have separate religious beliefs but the blood that flows and the family that suffers are no different. Ask this question to a family who have lost their loved ones in a War or for that mater a father who has lost his Son or a Daughter who has lost his father...how needless War is to them, Whether Hindu or Muslim ? It does not matter...please think more rationally before making any comments....The more we fight amongst over selves the more we loose ....

Mahmood Gul said...

Kaiser, continue doing the good job.

Abu Maryam said...

Very well written! Could you please write on the current Waziristan conflict?

Dr. Bilal

S.Alikhan said...

Great Article! But can you describe any close calls between PAF & IAF. i am quite sure that there was one atleast involving F-16s and IAF MiG-29s and Aftermath did PAF changed its tactics devise new ways of engaging. I know that PAF was strict orders into come toe to toe with IAF.

These details and what happened more recently when Mirage 2000s and later Su-30s come looking for action. some details would be great you must know that you are considered authentic link on webb regarding PAF.

Anonymous said...

At least some PAF officers write the facts!

jaykay said...

I don't know how I missed this excellent article. Gives an excellent insight into the fiasco

sarmad bashir said...

excellent and very well analysed. The likes of gen mehmood and nawaz sharif stand exposed.

swpanil000 said...

Congratulations for posting professional analysis. It gives clear analysis and also understanding of PAF's mind set. I believe PAF is the only professional arm of three services .Your views and road map on demilitarization of the region would be most welcome

Unknown said...

Excellent. A crisp and to the point fact talk. The article once again reminds us how a misadventure by few army generals almost drew the countries into a nuclear war.
PAF or even soldiers of NLI cannot be in any way held responsible for the awry outcome as the conception, planning and execution itself was flawed in terms of strategic and tactical vision..

Unknown said...

Kudos to Kaiser for a crisp article on kargil and its impartial aftermath analysis. Sanjeev

Ajay Chaudhari said...

Enjoyed reading.

Unknown said...

The analysis of the impact of organizational culture on decision making in the armed forces is very accurately covered. Will the army ever learn and will the hierarchy ever have the will to change? I doubt it. We seem destined to repeat history since we refuse to learn from it. Comments by a person above looking to teach a lesson to India only proves my point.

Anonymous said...

An excellent article. Honest and upright. One needs to be a brave person to be honest. Though I am from the other side but I salute you sir. Someone has written that how frequently India has stabbed Pakistan in the back, well,let me tell you that we in India have the perception that it's Pakistan who has always stabbed us in the back. I, personally have a different opinion. I feel we have brave people on both sides so we can keep on fighting till infinity but no side is going to win. The losers are going to be the brave people who will die fighting for their country, their families and the poor people of both the countries who will become even more poorer. The winners will be the powerful people on both sides whose foreign bank accounts are going to multiply and their future generations are going to prosper. We the people on both sides speak the same language, look the same,eat the same food, have a common culture but still hate each other. Because of this reason we have been ruled by foreigners for thousands of years. Even today we are being ruled by our selfish leaders who don't care for their country. We are such poor countries, should we not be spending our energy and resources to improve the lives of our people. We can fighting in the name of Kashmir because that's what our selfish leaders want. Come on let's grow up. It's not about Hindu or Muslim. We all are the same. Let's unite and fight the real enemy that is poverty and our selfish powerful leaders. We must give our next generation a place which is much more beautiful than America and with lots of opportunities. Can some miracle happen that we just stop hating each other. The day that happens then we will be more powerful than America. If our religious leaders preach unity and tell us to respect other religions too, then we should accept our religious leaders otherwise we should reject them. All religions are good and they teach peace. Let's not get carried away the way we have been for thousands of years. Let's wake up now before it's too late.

TechScribe said...

`Kargil, I suspect, like the ‘65 and ‘71 Wars, was a case of not having enough dissenters (‘devil’s advocates’, if you will) during planning, because everyone wanted to agree with the boss. That single reason, I think, was the root cause of most of the failures that were apparent right from the beginning. If this point is understood well, remedial measures towards tolerance and liberalism can follow as a matter of course. Such an organisational milieu, based on honest appraisal and fearless appeal, would be conducive to sound and sensible planning. It would also go a long way in precluding Kargil-like disasters.'

This is a great observation. Pakistan should have leaders (civilian and military) who are this smart. Amazing narrative. I love your blogs and the way you tend to be objective about everything. BTW this compliment to you is from across the border.

Unknown said...

Very balanced, introspective and perhaps even remedial to those who wish to learn from their past experiences.I hope it prevents future misadventures.

maniking said...

great read sir.

Unknown said...

Great reading, well analysed.
Thanks for writing this.

Anonymous said...

thank u sir for such interesting article

Anonymous said...

A honest, unbiased and impartial article by Ar Cmde Kaiser. Well written, sir. As a participant who flew in the air war from the 'Other Side', I do believe the PAF did have windows of opportunity, which were not exploited, for reasons not known (Lack of resources, audacity against PA control etc). Kudos to you sir for giving a honest and unbiased view.

Mohsin E. said...

Thank you for speaking out sir! The perennial problem for Pakistan's military history has been that incompetent Army generals have traditionally been promoted to Chief-level by civilians, who have then launched disastrous misadventures. Ayub should never have been Chief, neither should Musharraf. They were both promoted over other more qualified and senior commanders by civilians, and they both launched catastrophic wars without due planning.

The other problem which is confirmed by your brief here, is that the Air Force is clearly the 'strategic thinker' in the family of military-arms of any nation, and should always be taken into confidence in the planning stages of any strategy. In fact, the AF should lead the planning! Because as Rommel had already learned and admitted in North Africa, all the way back in WWII, without the Air Force, the Army's capabilities won't matter in any conventional war. I hope our Army generals have finally learned this lesson as well.


Anonymous said...

Sir. Since quite sometime, I was in desperate search of Pak verdion of Kargil episode. Of late I went through Gen VP Malik version however the Airforce quest remained unanswered. Now in recent standoff, I went through thid marvelous and crisp piece by you which was awesome. It truly helps great insight into what was an ill planned misadventure bringing about badname and damage to diplomatic efforts between the two otherwise undiplomatic neighbours. I am grateful and look forward more from you. I also pray to Almighty to grant vision and wisdom to leaders on both side of the border and enable them deliver prosperity, health, eduaction and true development for poor masses on both sides which make almost 20%of the world population. The peace must prevail and competition should be only in terms of better human life instead of better military hardware.