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Saturday, June 8, 2024

The parody of national reconciliation

The concept behind the Charter of Democracy, agreed to between Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, was borrowed from Nelson Mandela’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Charter was signed by the two exiled politicians on May 14, 2006, in London.

When it comes to formulating clichés, no one can beat Pakistani politicians. They borrow foreign concepts and symbols, distort them to meet their ends, and peddle the disfigured original ideas to fool the masses. This is what happened with the noble idea of national reconciliation promoted by the late Nelson Mandela when his South African National Congress won its long struggle against the apartheid system.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was a forum established by the post-apartheid South African government in 1995 to help heal the country from the wounds of tyranny and bring about reconciliation between the black, colored, and white races of South Africa by uncovering the truth about human rights violations that had occurred during the period of apartheid.

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Understanding the matter better

Unlike the Nurnberg trials that prosecuted Nazis after World War II, the TRC focused on gathering evidence and uncovering information—from both the black and Asiatic victims and their white tormentors—and not on prosecuting individuals for past crimes commission released the first five volumes of its final report on Oct. 29, 1998, and the remaining two volumes of the report on March 21, 2003.

The concept behind the Charter of Democracy, agreed to between Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, was borrowed from Nelson Mandela’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Charter was signed by the two exiled politicians on May 14, 2006, in London. The document, signaling an alliance between PPP and PML (N), outlined steps to end the military rule established by the 1999 military coup led by General Pervez Musharraf and restore civilian democratic rule in Pakistan. So, unlike the TRC, the Charter of Democracy pandered to the political survival of Benazir and Nawaz.

On 6 October 1998, Nawaz Sharif relieved General Jahangir Karamat, the Army Chief, for making a controversial statement at the Naval War College. While addressing the officers and cadets at the College, General Karamat stressed the need for a National Security Council (NSC) instead of the existing Defense Committee of the Cabinet (DCC). The proposed creation of NSC would be backed by a “team of civil-military experts” for devising policies to seek resolution on the problems relating the civil-military issues. General Karamat also recommended a neutral but competent bureaucracy and administration at the federal level and the establishment of local governments in all four provinces.

While making his statement, General Karamat had touched a raw nerve in Nawaz Sharif. The Army Chief was summoned by Nawaz Sharif, vacationing with his family, including Shehbaz, at his favorite retreat in Murree, and asked to tender his resignation. General Karamat complied. When this was happening in Murree, Lieutenant General Pervez Musharraf, the Mangla Corps Commander, was on his way to meet Nawaz Sharif. General Pervez Musharraf, after becoming the Army Chief, also developed differences with Nawaz, ostensibly during and after the Kargil War.

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The infiltration operation

In the spring of 1999, Pakistan Army launched a large infiltration operation across the Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir. The operation was aimed at occupying the heights dominating Srinagar-Leh Road. Before the 1971 War, these heights were controlled by Pakistan. Due to extremely difficult terrain and harsh weather conditions, it is not possible to man the defenses in this area from September through April. Hence, at the onset of the 1971 War, this sector was thinly held by the Pakistani scouts and Azad Kashmir irregulars. Indians had, therefore, no difficulty in capturing the scattered and isolated Pakistani posts overlooking Srinagar Leh Road, the Indian Army’s lifeline to Ladakh.

The capture of this strategically important area was a great relief for the Indians. Earlier, the Indian Army convoys traversing this road would frequently come under heavy weapons and artillery fire directed from the Pakistani posts. During the 1971 War, Pakistan Army, as elsewhere, made half-hearted attempts to counter the Indians across the international border and the Cease-fire Line (CFL) in Jammu & Kashmir. But the hopeless situation in the eastern theatre was replicated in the West. Indians occupied large chunks of Pakistani territory across the international border in the Punjab and Sindh sectors of the western theatre. In Jammu & Kashmir, Pakistan lost valuable territory in Poonch, Muzaffarabad, and Kargil sub-sectors.

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It is debatable if the Kargil War was a solo adventure by General Pervez Musharraf, or, as stated by him after the war, Nawaz Sharif was also on board. Most likely, Nawaz had been attending the briefings on the projected operation and gave his blessings. He distanced himself after things started going awry. We need not discuss the plane hijacking episode. The Charter of Democracy between the exiled Benazir and Nawaz, and the secret negotiations between these two politicians and Pervez Musharraf, brokered by the U.S. to replace Musharraf after he had, like Zia, outlived his utility for the U.S. paved the way for the so-called Musharraf N.R.O – a parody of Nelson Mandela’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.


Saleem Akhtar Malik is a Pakistan Army veteran who writes on national and international affairs, defense, military history, and military technology. He Tweets at @saleemakhtar53. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.