How the Kargil war shaped Pervez Musharraf's political career

Vivek Mishra
Vivek MishraFeb 06, 2023 | 14:37

How the Kargil war shaped Pervez Musharraf's political career

Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf died in Dubai on Sunday (February 5) after a prolonged illness. The former military ruler, born in Delhi, passed away at the age of 79 after he was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease Amyloidosis, an abnormal protein growth in organs.

The four-star General had a troubled relationship with India. During his reign in power, Musharraf engaged with India on many occasions, including the Kashmir issue. Still, he will always be known as the architect of the Kargil War in 1999 and for breaking the terms that were agreed upon during the Lahore Declaration.



The Kargil war: In the Kargil war with India, Musharraf played the role of the key strategist. From March to May 1999, he ordered the infiltration of forces with the help of insurgents in the Kargil district. After India discovered the infiltration, a full-scale war erupted between the two countries from May to July 1999.

  • Pakistani troops, disguised as Kashmiri militants, had infiltrated into strategic positions on the Indian side of the LoC. During its initial stages, Pakistan blamed the fighting entirely on Kashmiri insurgents, but documents left behind by casualties and later statements by Pakistan's Prime Minister and Chief of Army Staff showed the involvement of Pakistani paramilitary forces
  • The Indian Army and the Indian Air Force recaptured a majority of the positions on the Indian side of the LoC and after facing international diplomatic opposition, Pakistani forces had to withdraw from all remaining Indian positions.
In the Kargil war with India, Musharraf played the role of the key strategist. (Photo: Reuters)

The fighting: The Pakistani soldiers and the insurgents had positioned themselves at higher altitudes, giving them an advantage as they could fire down at advancing Indian troops. Pakistani forces had a clear line of sight to lay down indirect artillery fire on NH 1, inflicting heavy casualties on the Indians.

  • The Indian Army's first priority was to recapture peaks in the highway's immediate vicinity. So, the Indian troops first targeted the Tiger Hill and Tololing complex in Dras, which dominated the Srinagar-Leh route. This was soon followed by the Batalik-Turtok sub-sector which provided access to Siachen Glacier.
  • The recapture of Point 4590 by Indian troops on 14 June was significant, but it also resulted in the Indian Army suffering the most casualties in a single battle during the conflict. Most of the posts in the vicinity of the highway were cleared by mid-June.


Indian victory: The Indian army launched its final attacks in the last week of July in coordination with the IAF, both by day and night, in their totally successful Operation Safed Sagar. As soon as the Drass subsector had been cleared of Pakistani forces, the fighting ceased on 26 July. The day has since been marked as Kargil Vijay Diwas (Kargil Victory Day) in India.

Casualties in Kargil war: India gave its official casualty figures as 527 dead and 1,363 wounded. There have been different reports about Pakistan army losses. Pakistan confirmed that 453 soldiers were killed. The US Department of State had made an early, partial estimate of close to 700 fatalities. According to numbers stated by Nawaz Sharif, there were over 4,000 fatalities.


Dispute in Pakistan after the Kargil war: President Sharif and Musharraf disputed as to who was responsible for the Kargil conflict and Pakistan's withdrawal.

  • Musharraf had a severe confrontation and became involved in serious altercations with his senior officers, including, Chief of Naval Staff, Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal and Senior Lieutenant-General Ali Kuli Khan.
  • Admiral Bokhari ultimately demanded a full-fledged joint-service court martial against General Musharraf, while on the other hand, General Kuli Khan lambasted the war as 'a disaster bigger than the East-Pakistan tragedy', adding that the plan was "flawed in terms of its conception, tactical planning and execution" that ended in "sacrificing so many soldiers." reported India Today.

Coup in Pakistan: Months after the Kargil war, Musharraf lead a bloodless military coup in October, deposing the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and installing himself as the head of the government in the capacity of a Chief Executive. This happened after Sharif had sacked him as the Army Chief.

His first action after the Supreme Court validated his coup, was to exile Sharif from Pakistan, banning him from returning to the country for 10 years.

Musharraf becomes President: In June 2001, Musharraf declared himself as the President of Pakistan after Mohammad Rafiq Tarar resigned.

  • In July 2001, Musharraf and the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee meet for a two-day summit in Agra. But the summit collapsed after two days, with both sides unable to reach an agreement on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan under Musharraf: During his term as the President, Musharraf survived assassination attempts, sacked the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and pushed for social liberalism. Though under his presidency the GDP of Pakistan increased, economic inequality rose and his disregard for public institutions led to him being called a dictator.


The downfall: In 2008, Musharraf's parliamentary party lost the national polls, forcing him to resign to avoid impeachment. He then left the country for the United Kingdom. In 2010, he launched his own political party, the All Pakistan Muslim League.

  • In 2013, he returned to Pakistan to contest the general elections but was not allowed to by the courts. In 2014, he was finally charged with high treason.
Last updated: February 06, 2023 | 14:37
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