PAF in Kargil : A PAF warrior speaks out

Unlike the 1965 war and 1971 war,  where impartial observers like John Fricker and Chuck Yeager lauded the role played by PAF,   PAF’s role in the Kargil war is denigrated, especially by the Pro-Army sections of the military,  for being “non-cooperative”.   Here an Airman speaks out about PAF’s role in the Kargil affair.   It is telling not just for failure of Pakistan’s war planners but also the precarious relationship between democratic institutions and military ones.  War, as Clausevitz said,  is diplomacy by another means.   There is definitely a need for an Kargil Commission in Pakistan to sort out those responsible for what turned out to be a travesty for all concerned especially as to how Pakistani military runs its affair and where the war policy is made.  We welcome comment by all concerned but especially those who are in the business of warfare and military strategy. –

PAF and the Kargil War


By M. Kaiser Tufail


While the Indians were prompt in setting up an Inquiry Commission into the Kargil fracas, we in  Pakistan  found it expedient to bury the affair in ‘national interest’.  Compared to the Indians, Pakistani writings on the Kargil conflict have been pathetically few and, those that did come out were largely irrelevant and in a few cases, clearly sponsored. The role of the PAF has been discussed off and on, but mostly disparagingly, particularly in Army quarters. Here is an on-scene airman’s perspective, focusing on IAF’s air operations and the PAF’s position.


Operational Planning in PAF


Since an important portion of this write-up pertains to 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 are made up of four-tiered staff officers.  The top-most tier is made up of the Deputy Chiefs of Air Staff (DC AS ) who are the Principal Staff Officers (PSOs) of their respective branches and are nominally headed by the Vice Chief of Air Staff (VC AS ).  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 Chief of the Air Staff (C AS ).  The next tier is made up of Assistant Chiefs of Air Staff (AC AS ) who head various sub-branches and, along with their 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 war preparedness methodology in the PAF.


In early 1999, Air Chief Marshal Pervez 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 Pakistanwhen his Sabre was shot down and he was taken POW.  He determinedly resumed his fighter pilot’s career after repatriation and eventually 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 DC AS (Ops) as well as the VC AS before taking over as Chief of the Air Staff.


The post of DC AS (Ops) was held by Air Marshal Zahid Anis (late).  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 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 course at the Royal College of Defence Studies in  UK .


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


There is no gainsaying the fact that PAF’s hierarchy was highly qualified and each one of the players in the Operations branch had the requisite command and staff experience.  The three 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), the first occasion when I got an opportunity to interact with the Army’s Director of Military Operations (DMO) was over a phone call, some time in March 1999.  Brig Nadeem Taj called with great courtesy and requested some information that he needed for a paper exercise, as he told me.  He wanted to know when did the PAF last carry 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.  Next day, Brig Taj again called, 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 his facts and figures right, in front of his bosses.  We got on a secure line and I passed 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 DC AS (Ops).  Just to be sure, he checked up with his counterpart, the Director General Military Operations (DGMO), Maj Gen Tauqir Zia, who also had the same to say 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 things 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 DC AS (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.  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 ‘Kashmir Contingency’.


Air Cdre Abid Rao, Air Cdre Saleem Nawaz and myself were directed by the DC AS (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 Mehmud Ahmad entered, clad in a bush-coat and his trademark camouflaged scarf, cutting an  impressive figure.  After exchange of pleasantries, the COSstarted with the map orientation briefing.  Thereafter Lt Gen Mehmud 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 couple of 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 ofDras-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 monsoons would prevent vehicular movement (due to landslides) and, also suspend all airlift by 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 Mehmud asked for questions at the end of the rather crisp and to-the-point briefing, Air Cdre Saleem Nawaz opened up by inquiring the type of air support that might be needed for the operation.  Lt Gen Mehmud 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 Mehmud’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 got 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 positioning of hundreds of guns that were 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 DC AS (Ops) about what had transpired at the 10 Corps briefing.  His surprise at the developments, as well as his concern over 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 DC AS (Ops) went to brief the C AS 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


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

Srinagar         34   (MiG-21, MiG23, MiG-27)

Awantipur     28   (MiG-21, MiG29, 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 at a local air-to-ground firing range.


Operations by IAF started in earnest on 26 May, a full 16 days after commencement of Pakistani infiltration across the LOC.  Strafing and rocketing of intruders’ positions by MiG-21, MiG-23BN and MiG-27 was the salient feature of this initial phase. 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 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 Mehmud’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 accuracy. A few cases of fratricide by IAF led them 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, the latter in accurately shelling Pakistani positions in 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 by 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 reconnaissance and communications intelligence missions which totalled about 150. 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 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 PAF’s Chief of Air Staff 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 Najeeb 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 Najeeb, who had an excellent knowledge about own and enemy’s Air Defence Ground Environment (ADGE), focused on fighter sweep 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 own territory, ie Azad Kashmir or Northern Areas.  That done, a number of issues had to be tackled. What if the enemy aircraft were hit in own 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 wisening up in quick time? The over-arching consideration was the BVR missile capability of IAF fighters which unfavourably impinged 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.  A fighter sweep thus came to be a non-starter.


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 took 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 matter was taken up by the GHQ with 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 secondary turn-around facility was, however, considered acceptable for its location.


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 the activity had to be ‘rationalised’, a euphemism for discontinuing it altogether. That an impending war occupied the minds of the Air Staff was evident in the decision by the DC AS (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 lack of cooperation by the PAF.  Suffice 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 PAF was to blame for the Kargil venture spiralling out of control.


It also must be highlighted that other than the F-16s, PAF did not have a capable enough fighter for patrolling, as the minimum requirement

in the scenario under discussion was an on-board airborne intercept radar, exceptional agility and sufficient staying power. The F-7s had reasonably good manoeuvrability but lacked an intercept radar as well as endurance, while the Mirage-III/5 were sitting ducks for the air combat mission (even though an odd squadron had been retrofitted with a first-class radar which made it fit for the night interceptor role).

 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, PAF gave no pretext to the enemy for retaliation in the face of any provocation, though this latter stance irked some quarters in the Army which 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 the principal protagonists of the Kargil adventure were the CO AS : General Pervez Musharraf, Commander 10 Corps: Lt General Mehmud Ahmed and Commander Force Command Northern Areas: Maj Gen Javed Hasan. The trio, in previous ranks and appointments, had been associated with planning during paper exercises on how to wrest control of lost territory in Siachen. The plans were not acceptable to the then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, to whom the options had been put up for review more than once. She was well-versed in international affairs and, all too intelligent to be suckered by the chicanery.  It fell to the half-wit of her successor, Mr Nawaz Sharif, to approve the Army trio’s self-serving presentation. “General sahib, bismillah karen…” is how he is supposed to have given the go ahead, not withstanding the denials he keeps issuing every solar eclipse.


In an effort to keep the plan secret – which was the key to its successful initiation, so it was thought – the Army trio took no one into confidence, neither its 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 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 capabilities and limitations of an Air Force.


Failure to coordinate contingency plans at the tri-services level.


The flaws in the Kargil Plan that lead 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 cheek 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 this 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 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 which accommodates different points of view, a more lateral approach, so to speak. Dissent 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, a precocious alien in their ‘star-spangled’ universe.  Kargil, I suspect, like ’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 preclusion of potential disasters.



An unfortunate aside to the Kargil episode was the perceived ‘non-cooperation’ of the PAF which was not forgotten by the CO AS , who decided to square up after he landed himself in the chair of Pakistan’s President.  Come change-over time of the Chief of Air Staff, Gen 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 back.  Not pleased by Air Chief Marshal Mehdi’s rather straight-faced and forthright dealings with a somewhat junior Gen Musharraf, the latter got an opportunity to appoint a not-very-senior Air Chief whom he could treat like one of the Corps Commanders. (It is another matter that Air Chief Marshal Mus’haf turned out as solid as his predecessor and gave no quarter when it came to PAF’s interests.) It was unfortunate that PAF’s precious corporate experience was thrown out so crassly and careers destroyed, all due to one man’s rancour. Lives and honour lost in Kargil is another matter.


  The author is a retired Air Commodore.  


Filed under Army, India, Kashmir, Pakistan

44 responses to “PAF in Kargil : A PAF warrior speaks out

  1. hayyer48

    That was an interesting article worth study.
    Just some snippets from this perspective.
    The plane that flamed out was the one piloted by Nachiketa. The pilot of the other aircraft went in across to look where Nachiketa had bailed out for a possible recovery and got shot down by SAM.
    The Mi-17 helicopter shot down was not carrying flares that day. Perhaps they were out of stock temporarily. He got shot down by one of your stingers.
    I think more damage to Pakistani held positions was done by Bofors fire than by Mirages. In the first days few days Indian guns could not get a fix on Pak positions. Later I believe, apart from imaging by satellite (not confirmed) or aircraft it was AOPs (helicopter borne) that guided the Bofors. The chopper pilots would loiter behind peaks out of range of pak gun or missiles and rise in coordination with the Bofors shells fired to observe whether they were landing on target and radioing directions before dipping again for the next round.
    India’s army hadn’t a clue what was about to happen as late as April. Kargili shepherds had brought down news of unusual incursions as early as November of 1998, but no one paid them any attention at the Brigade HQ in Kargil or the Div. HQ in Leh. Later at the end of April 09 when things did hot up the Army began reporting it as a minor incursion by militants who would soon be wiped out. By this time the Kargili shepherds were reporting a full fledged invasion, but the Army would not believe it possible.
    India’s army chief was out of the country as late as the middle of May. The Corps Commander in Srinagar responsible pooh poohed reports that it was the Northern Light Infantry in massive strength occupying the Kargil heights. Would you believe that it was the political leadership in J&K and Delhi that finally persuaded the army to wake up and act. That is when air power got involved.
    India’s Inquiry commission was actually to white wash the incompetence of the generals concerned. There had been a long period during which the Infantry did not get a look in at the senior positions because the Chiefs were either Armoured Corps or Artillery. Gen. Malik the Army Chief was an Infantry man and he wanted to support the Corps Commander, his buddy from the infantry. Actually however the generals concerned not only lost their jobs their careers more or less terminated.
    The role of the Pak generals is even more worthy of condemnation than the article makes out. Having put out this story that the Pak Army was not involved and the thing was just Kashmiri freedom fighters they stuck to it. As a consequence the bodies of NLI soldiers killed in shelling or strafing were not accepted by the Pak Army. Much propoganda advantage accrued to India as a result of the conflict.

  2. Anwar

    A couple of months back a friend of mine forwarded the draft of this article and I just kept wondering if it is ever going to be published – and I am glad that it finally did… There are shocking revelations of the mindset of few generals and what is sad is that this experiment resulted in death of nearly 1700 LNI men… Is it not important to bring to justice the guys responsible for needless deaths?

  3. mustaq

    Nice and straight forward. very professional. No mention of islam and allah and fakirs catching bombs in their caps and dumping into the arabian sea.
    When Pakistan realises that ruling or ruining India is a wet dream, and that they should think of developing their country and stop relying on deciet and terrorists, peace will prevail in South Asia.

  4. MK

    seems like written from a professional’s pen. If true this is a very courageous and very sanely act. There is no nonsense and discussion is crisp and to the point.

  5. Amit

    It is rarely that I have seen a piece of military writing so well written. No jingoism, no Islam or political slander. I can only shudder at the thought of people like Gen. Musharraf holding the rein of power in a nuclear armed country. If they can be so cavalier in their attitude and go to war at the drop of a hat, what sort of stupidity are they capable of. And the less I say about Indian army the better. If Kargil was the slap in the face of Pakistan’s generals, it was a kick in the ass of Indian Army and it’s intelligence gathering capability. From the recent Mumbai attacks it is clear that neither sides have learned their lesson. God save south Asia.

  6. verming

    since independence the main diff between us(ind-pak) is the role of army ,In India army has come to be associated with crisis resolution agency,where as Pakarmy is the root of all crisis but for the army Pakistan today would have been a role model for many countries

  7. Hamid Khawaja

    It is always a pleasure to read Kaiser’s articles. I recommend his book, Greatr Air Battles, strongly to anyone who is interested in Air Combat.

  8. subroto

    brilliant piece, i am not a military professional but found it of great use. some extremely useful insights into management and organizational processes. it is a tutorial for practicing managers.

    i have giving him and this site credit taken extracts and made observations on its relevance to corporations.

  9. khalid

    we must not listen to one side of story,there seems to be no authentity in all this,this all seems to defame pak army

  10. Naeem Abbas Sahibzada

    A very honest, accurate and superb analysis by Kaiser Tufail.Its time people learned the truth and the event recorded in history in the correct perspective.
    Its time people recorded truth in case of other such events and adventures in our history as well

    Well done Kaiser Tufail !!!!

    Naeem Abbas

  11. Naeem Abbas Sahibzada

    Kaiser Tufail’s narration is most accurate. I happen to know that for sure.
    However, if you have any reservations then Lets have the other side of the story which they think is accurate. No white washing or dressing please.

  12. Hash

    Kargil was an awakening for the international community about South Asian temperament. It was first test of nerves of the leaders after the nuclearisation of South Asia. Both sides blew hot and cold over nuclear threshold. But the political leadership on both sides was not poised for such a confrontation. Also aware of dangers, they restrained to open other fronts. Correctly reading the situation, Indian Army quickly moved its modern artillery guns behind mere ‘battalion front’. This was the reason why India gained upper hand.

    How brilliant operationally a plan may be it is not executable without favorable wider politico and diplomatic environment. Kargil was anything but out of sync with other developments. The ensuing stance showed the predicament of Pakistani decision makers. This Pakistani misadventure at Kargil gave back most of what India had morally lost since 1989 in Kashmir. Indian show of ‘restraint and restoration of sanctity of LOC’ won them international praise. More than military victory the diplomatic triumph, to me, carried severe blows to Kashmiris’ aspirations (for freedom, self-rule or their right to self-determination).

    However, a positive development has been that both sides after Kargil put in place an elaborate command and control system for their nuclear weapons. India and Pakistan have also entered into an agreement to safeguard against an accidental use of nukes. Still nuclear deterrent has serious limitations in south Asian context.

    India needs to show maturity and shun the mentality to blame everything which happens there on ISI. This nurtures blame-game. Pakistan needs to learn that antagonism is not in its ‘national interests’. I agree with Kaiser, Pakistan earnestly needs a ‘consensual’ approach to decision making.

    For people, I think, it makes sense if Indopak could emulate the path Australia and New Zealand took over the years.

  13. Tanveer A Khan

    This is only one side of the story. What if India had chosen to take an adventure in the same area. The Kargil ops were engulfed in secrecy for obvious reasons. Had it not been so, Pakistan would have been in the woods all along. Our nuclear capability did work. Look at the hue and cry raised by India. Unfortunately we have always been poor performers in the diplomatic and political field. However, we cannot blame the PAF for any in-action. If it was there it was purely due to technical reasons. I do agree with the writer that had things gone out of control the PAF would have been inextricably involved thus posing a greater danger.

    Hats off to those at the lower level who excecuted daring actions which go unsung becauser of our political and personal expediecies.

  14. Naeem Abbas Sahibzada

    Dear Tanvir Sahib,

    All agreed but i have still not understood as to what the state of Pakistan gained by this unnecessary adventure. On the other hand we certainly lost a lot on every field in prestige, respect, sterling jawans and officers, monies, diplomatically, in stability in the region, friends, ecnomically and in every other way.
    How could we be so naive to think that India a matching power will let it happen and take it lying low and do nothing.

  15. zulu

    Qaiser Tufail is one of most upright,professional and credible officer ,air force has ever produced.It is an biased and convincing analysis.QT only you could have done that.

  16. indian

    very good article cannot believe written by written by pak defence personnel
    it is very sad due to the misadventure pakistan went to lose so many soldiers
    pak army/air force are equllay capable like their indian counterpart however the indian military has one role in the country wheras pak army tries to get involve in each evry activity of the country
    coming to the article it shows the proper cohesion between the various branches of military can make/break a war both countries should make sure that kargil is not repeated nor any more war takes place
    an average indian doesnt hold any grudge against pakistanis
    coming back to the article it is an excellent one for defence related topics
    a sincere salute to the retired commodore from a indian
    hope qaiser sir write some books related to conflicts/civil wars etc
    i would be one the first to read it

  17. Pillai

    Mr Qaiser Tufail has done a great job in revealing all that went behind the Kargil episode. As a responsible citizen its rather his duty to tell his country men, who misled their country.

    Also its time for the Indian generals to come up with the names who slept while Pak generals where busy planning war on their country.Those who responsible must eat the humble pie.

    I had been a great admirer of Parvez Musharaff. After reading Tufail, I pity this man.How can he be so selfish to act against those intelligent PAF top brass. Surely, Mushraff is the cancer that affected Pakistan and now he is out but Pak should always keep its guard against this general, who is now in a world wind tour to amass money to start his political career…

    He is not a hero…Pak heroes are those men who died on Kargil front lines, designated after death as intruders,and their families.

    War is never an option for both India and Pakistan.You cannot measure the success of the war by just counting the number of fighter planes, cities tanks you destroyed or counting the number of dead bodies…

    A war will push both India and Pakistan 50 years back into the history and the poor in both those countries will suffer while Musharffs will be flying all over the world lecturing how to wage/win/prevent wars, amassing money for themselves and their family.

    When Musharaff deployed thousands of army men for his safety, remember he is the one who left those hapless brave soldiers alone on the kargil heights with out even food and not to speak of their honour. Do we want to listen to such a traitor. Musharaff should be put on trial, should be made responsible for the death of near 2000 soldiers in Kargil and many more. He should be made answerable to their families…

    India and Pak should learn lessons, they should live in peace, should spend each dollar on the betterment of their education and healthcare.We should not send the hard earned money to the bulky pockets of the western arms producers.

    Let this be the last war in South Asia, let the better sense prevail and we move on together, to a better future, which is safe and secure for all the future generations to come….

  18. Well written article,as a Indian i wish some from our side also writes a similar article on kargil conflict. Musharraf has a habit of over estimating himself and unde estimating his opponents,He has succeeded against USA at the cost of simple roti.kapda,makan and education of the citizens of his country folk.Against India he nor any of his preceders could not do so,and history is witness to it.I only wish the powers to be of India and Pakistan invest more time and their resources on their citizens The war is won when the thought of war goes away in the psyche of the citizens. The European countries and Japan who bore the worst of any war are a proof to it ,India has a little martial tendencies and rightly so for in the times of today brain if used properly is powerful than the brawn. The diplomatic success of the India testifies to this

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  20. ali anser

    i think a bit of introspection always helps in identifying mistakes and charting a better course of action for the future , i know KT and he has nothing at heart than what i have mentioned , its not anti -army or something , a wrong suggestion by some ppl

  21. ali anser

    and all people in pak armed forces are professionals quite unlike the stereotypes churned out by those who are served by such false images

  22. bonobashi

    @ali anser

    Kaisar Tufail’s account, which has appeared elsewhere in recent times, in Pakistan defence sites for example, is brilliant because of its readability as well as its ruthless integrity. What comes out very clearly in his account was that Kargil was an isolated Army mission, where it took little care to integrate the Air Force into its planning, and thereby displayed a degree of built-in bias in perception which is reminiscent of the worst errors of 1965.

    If you recall, Bhutto had persuaded GHQ in 1965 that Operation Gibraltar would not meet with much of a reaction, and neither would any further follow-up (it is not clear whether or not he knew the full details of Plan B, Operation Grand Slam). In the event, the failure of Gibraltar and the aggressive reaction of the Indian Army, and the consequent threat to Muzaffarabad triggered Operation Grand Slam, General Malik’s armoured thrust for the vulnerable Chicken’s Neck. The details of what ensued through General Musa’s inexplicable battlefield change of command from Malik to Yahya Khan is now history. The reaction of the Indians in attacking the international border, contrary to the self-assured and confident briefing of Bhutto, is also history.

    In the case of Kargil, it is apparent that there was a lot of emotion involved. Perceptions were thereby affected, and decisions were skewed by these wrong perceptions. The preceding events at Siachen were an important influence, and a section of the Pakistan Army felt it necessary to retaliate. It was felt that pressure on the highlands commanding the main road from Srinagar would put unbearable logistics pressure on the Indian outpost at Siachen. It was apparently believed that the Indian Army would not do much against a fait accompli of the sort envisaged. No major engagement was visualised, only a scaled-up version of Siachen, and certainly no role for the Pakistan Air Force, to fend off supporting activities by the Indian Air Force, was thought off.

    In the event, none of this happened.

    You mentioned in your brief intervention: a bit of introspection always helps in identifying mistakes and charting a better course of action for the future .

    Quite right. It is to be hoped that this will take effect very soon.

    Even today, there are dangerous assumptions being made about the limits to which the Indian political leadership and under their orders the Indian military can be pushed. There are dangerous assumptions being made about the ability to fine-tune a response to the the Taliban Shoora, the TTP, the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Sipahi-Saheba type of radical Sunni units and the jehadi outfits oriented towards Kashmir, even though these assumptions have already been shown to be completely wrong.

    The important of Kaisar Tufail’s account is on one level, a reminder that all three elements of a military organisation must be involved equally in strategy formulation; leaving out one whole element may lead to less than optimal results. On another level, it is a reminder that there are some physical realities, some geo-political realities, even some military realities which need to be acknowledged, failing which only disaster can ensue.

    Can you see this realisation dawn on strategic planners? I can’t.

  23. ali anser

    i think there was much more to the army-AF chiefs seen-together in recent times than mere photo-ops , which seems like a good start for JOINTNESS , i will venture beyond that to say that its not just the three services but all the elements of the state that should be in sync for the national purpose , after all synergy is not just a vague managerial cliche- it can do wonders for organizations (and nations), we have a long way to go but its a start nonetheless

  24. ali anser

    @ indian , KT has a book (great air battles of Pakistan Air Force) i dunno if you ll be able to get hold of it there , its well-researched , thorough and professsional , signature KT style

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  26. Zahid Jamil

    Well written, but it looks it was to defend the PAF chief of that time.It exposed that the PAF is technically too vulnerable, it has only part time (with strings attached of course) F-16s to guard the borders.Then where is the defense budget going ?We are not sending millions to schools as we need to buy defense hardware.Can a common man digest that with 25% of the budget going to defense we don’t have the required weapons when it comes to war.Nuclear weapons are not enough to scare, we will always have traditional wars, nukes are only to keep others’ nukes cool.Will DHAs win us any wars?

  27. Nabeel

    So we are here to give credit to PAF that it saved its planes and missiles while 1700 soldiers laid their lives.With so meagre equipment do we need to keep such a big airforce. It may be a series of Chiefs to blame for inadequately equipping t PAF. India knows about our arsenal there is no secret so why hide it from our own people? why not put the situation in the National Assembly and wither build up the PAF or close it down.We have Air Commodores, AVMs, AMs but no planes to support our troops.Each soldier has atleast 10 close family members to weep and are sending them in without an air cover.History will not pardon the characters behind all this.Nawaz Sharif escaped with a simple denial “I never knew” Mush escaped with billions Genereals and Air Marshals retired with plots, and those who gave lives ? even their bodies were not retrieved and who know they might have left the injured on the mountains to die.

  28. Qamar Khan

    Well done Pakistanis, we are fighting on the road, Army and PAF blaming each other while Indians enjoy and even appreciate the quarrel.Good job.

  29. D_a_n

    @ Nabeel/Zahid Jameel…

    the PAF accepts your kind thanks for saving your skins from escalating an un-winnable war and a possible nuclear holocaust….

    your welcome!

  30. vajra

    @Zaheed Jamil
    @Qamar Khan

    Three almost-identical posts at 11:57, 12: 19 and 12:22? All saying what was the PAF doing, hiding behind its unpreparedness? Why was it not out in support of the Army? Why are they saying this in public anyway, making the Army look small, while the Indians look on and smile?

    How remarkable, this must be the wind of consensus blowing over the land. 🙂

    Frankly, after the candour and the upright frankness of the Air Force men, which came as a breath of fresh air, this selection of comments, if indeed three separate individuals are involved, reads sadly. It is of no use to try to cover up a naked misadventure, a thoroughly badly planned (the word should be plotted) act of thuggery, by blaming a sister service.

    Let’s get some things straight, gentlemen. The Air Force, whether Pakistan’s, or ours, or any other, is a technology-intensive service, and depends on smooth and knot-free conditions to keep itself effective. At the time of the Kargil Incident, it had already been under interdict of the US for some years.

    A plane is designed to be flown, for those of us who were not aware of it, and it sounds awfully as if some of us aren’t, for a certain, exact number of flights. Planes of Western design generally have a longer life. Some planes of Russian design, including planes that are still in the inventory of our Air Force, were originally planned to make 100 flights, no more (you will find out soon enough, once your Chinese reverse-engineered wonders start replacing your earlier models, as they almost completely have) 😀

    In other words, every time you fly a warplane, you are using up a tangible, important part of its effective life. It is not a field gun that can be kept working for years by regular maintenance and the occasional firing exercise; field guns are rated for many hundreds of rounds, thousands of rounds in some rugged models, before the rifling in the barrels wears out. Not a fighter plane.

    So each flight means that it becomes that much more vulnerable to breakdown. They do in fact start breaking down. The F16 is a formidable aircraft; in the hands of Pakistanis, it is all the more formidable. An Air Force inspired by leadership like Asghar Khan and Nur Khan, and flying outstanding planes such as this plane, is not to be taken lightly by anybody; however, planes, especially sophisticated planes such as this one, cannot fly without spare parts. Sorry, but josh doesn’t work in the field of aerodynamics or of fighter plane operations, not in all aspects.

    Coupled with this is the need to stockpile fuel. Given enough fuel and ammunition, and no shortages of spare parts, the PAF fought very well in 65, reasonably well in 71, putting up a brave resistance in the Eastern sector contrary to the astonishing statements of Niazi in his war memoirs:

    “While the enemy was free to fly over our territory , Air Marshal M. Rahim Khan kept himself and his air force hidden during the conflict. “, p.174, Lt.Gen. A.A.K Niazi, The Betrayal of East Pakistan

    I’m sorry, speaking as somebody from the other side, and considering how the PAF fought with its backs to the wall till the bitter end, right to the daring escape of an intrepid bunch in a dash to Burma under the very noses of our triumphant Air Force and the prowling Fleet Air Arm, all looking for fresh blood, this need not – should not – have been said. If anyone wishes to see fighting on the road stop, perhaps it might be well to start with remarks like this one.

    In the case of the Kargil Incident, there was no warning to stockpile fuel, and this too would have constricted PAF operations.

    Mush escaped with billions Genereals and Air Marshals retired with plots, and those who gave lives ? even their bodies were not retrieved and who know they might have left the injured on the mountains to die.

    Again, what is the Air Force being pilloried about? The Army never consulted the Air Force before implementing its plan or going into action. Neither, incidentally, did the Indian Army, in its scramble to recover lost ground – as a patriotic Indian, I will refrain from any further categorisation of its actions in the early days of the incident.

    When the Indian Air Force was called in, it was told not to cross the Line of Control, not to touch PA staging posts and fuel and ammunition stores backing up the intruders in the mountains, and not to engage the PAF unless it crossed over or engaged in turn. Why I am quoting this is to remind readers that until the emergency purchase of smart bombs, the refitting of Mirage 2000s with external racks to hold those and fire those and guide them to their targets effectively, it couldn’t do much. Technology and full government support were both there for the IAF. Not so for the PAF.

    As I said earlier, josh is not enough. Three Indian aircraft were lost to enemy action or to equipment malfunction, one of the pilots of the two surviving was shot at close quarters and the body returned mutilated. Please read Hayyer48’s instructive note at the beginning of these comments.

    The IAF paid its dues. It had no lack of josh. Until technology was roped in, that wasn’t enough. The same goes for the PAF.

    And bodies left on the mountainside? Yes, they were left on the mountainside. The Indian Army buried many on the spot, in some cases with the performance of religious rites to the extent that these were familiar and known to the burial details (this was when some sections of the Pakistani media, to their everlasting shame, called the pictures faked and contrived, since actually no casualties had actually occurred).

    As far as I know, no live or wounded Pakistani soldiers were recovered.

    I have no emotional attachment to either of these enemy forces, the PA and the PAF, but to blame the PAF for non-participation in the Kargil Incident is a travesty of justice, and defamatory to Pakistan’s finest military service.

  31. Luq


    http : // www. /v/xuqINvYALTM?hl=en_US&fs=1

    Hope this helps answer your question
    (you have to delete the spaces from the above)


  32. vajra


    I was frankly ignorant about the prisoners and wounded recovered. My apologies for the unintentional mis-statement.

  33. Luq

    >the PA and the PAF, but to blame the PAF for
    >non-participation in the Kargil Incident is a
    >travesty of justice, and defamatory to Pakistan’s
    >finest military service.

    One wonders if it was possible to claim that mujahideen had an air force of their own and had F-16s of their own.


  34. B. Civilian

    >One wonders if it was possible to claim that >mujahideen had an air force of their own and had >F-16s of their own.

    since we are in the realm of cloud cuckoo land, why not claim that the LOC was beyond where the mujahideen were, without necessarily claiming that the mujahideen were anywhere other than where they actually were.

  35. Woody

    I wonder what D_A_N wants to put across.Attacking three mails by pasting their time stamps too.Just concentrate on what is commented, even if three mails were from the same person.

    I wonder what is meant by all of a sudden and no time to gather spares,fuels etc.So you need a pre-planned war , with the enemy ethically compelled to collaborate by agreeing upon a time schedule.I agree to many points that D_A_N (I think he is a moderator or author of the article, but doesn’t matter) but he should not get emotional , and facts alone can make someone understand.I have heard Pakistan Airforce did a good job in earlier wars but that can not be taken as source of confidence when the mentioned class of heroes is no more around.If the US gives you spares and ammunition for F-16 you are ready to fight if not then it is not your fault .I agree and I hope they provide them when you need them. Yes Army should have taken PAF into confidence no doubt about it.About the casualties left on the mountains, it is not responsibility of PAF but of somebody from your very country Sir.It is nice to have war of comments between the two countries rather of bombs and guns.The article is no doubt a good one and very revealing for those not in the PAF and Army.Write more.

  36. Vajra


    Were you addressing D_a_n? If so, it is best for D_a_n to respond to you. I fear you may be mistaken, but don’t wish to poach on someone else’s question.

    BTW, D_a_n is neither a Moderator nor the author of the article; the author is the well-known M. Kaiser Tufail, whose writings have attracted critical acclaim in two countries, and been widely read in many others.

  37. Jamal

    Vajra is right Woody commented on Vajra but wrote D_A_N. nice hot debate going on.I wonder why people don’t use their real names, why woody, vajra D_A_N there can be Don coming in the next post .May be they are not allowed .

    Anyway the situation depicted by the author is very thought provoking and something must be done to avoid this in future wars .The author has done a brave job (risky too) and I wish this is printed in some main newspaper so that the response of the high ups could be sought.Why doesn’t some TV channel take it up? Good job.

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  39. I am glad that Tiger Woods is back playing. It makes the sport exciting all over again.

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  41. Shahid Mahmood

    The trio responsible for ,must put before trial to punish in befitting manner but there is little hope in this regard.Mush did damage to this country and its people.(tidda commondo) inflicted shame on us.

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  43. dear lovely article and patterns of mehndi loving it

  44. Seems like the Tiger Woods fiasco has not done him excessive damage. He still earned $90 million last year!