Musharraf deceived me, no deal with military: Sharif


New Delhi : As Pakistan's former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, currently in exile in London, readies to return to his country to restore democracy, he has ruled out any deal with the powerful army and accuses President Pervez Musharraf of "stabbing him in the back" by launching the 1999 Kargil operation against India.

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"I am also very grateful to the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who also extended full cooperation. And he also felt let down. He also felt he was being stabbed by his Pakistani counterpart," Sharif told The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta in an interview broadcast on NDTV.

Sharif was alluding to the Kargil offensive by Pakistani troops in the summer of 1999, months after his historic meeting with Vajpayee in Lahore in which both countries committed to initiate a slew of steps to normalise relations between India and Pakistan.

The offensive, according to Sharif, was planned by Musharraf allegedly without informing him about the plan by Pakistani troops to occupy Kargil in the Indian Kashmir – a contention Musharraf has vehemently denied in his autobiography "In the Line of Fire" published last year.

"I think he (Vajpayee) also has said, 'I didn't know that Mr Nawaz Sharif would stab me in the back.' Not knowing that Nawaz Sharif himself was being stabbed in the back by his own Chief of Army Staff," said Sharif while expressing his shock and dismay at hearing the news of the Kargil operation and his "betrayal" by the then army chief who went on to stage a coup against him later that year.

"When Mr Vajpayee called me. He called me on the phone. He said, 'Mr Nawaz Sharif are you aware of what is happening in Kargil?' That was when I came to know about that," he said.

"Well, Mr Musharraf had kept it a secret from me and his other colleagues and this was revealed later. I was stunned when I heard from Mr Vajpayee that our regular troops and regular army were engaged in this battle in Kargil," Sharif said while alluding to the tape he has which narrates a telephonic conversation between Musharraf and General Aziz Khan, discussing the Kargil operation, that was apparently intercepted by Indian intelligence agencies.

"If I say I never deceived him or I never stabbed him in his back, I say it from my heart not from my mouth," he said in a bid to correct conflicting versions of events about the fateful Kargil offensive that almost led to a full-scale war and led to the suspension of the peace process between the two countries.

"Yes, Mr Vajpayee rightly felt let down. Mr Musharraf derailed the process and the man who is guilty of derailing the process today claims that he is the biggest supporter of peace between the countries," he added.

More than 4,000 Pakistani troops and officials were killed in the Kargil conflict, according to Sharif.

As Sharif fleshes out his strategy for restoring democracy in Pakistan, he stressed that there would not be any deal with the military under the new dispensation. He added that he was fighting this new battle not for personal ambitions but to "shut the doors on the army, on the generals, and to come into politics".

"I think it is a very clear departure from the past, where people used to strike a deal with the generals and do some give and take and then make compromises on principles. I think now it is principles that are more important than any political experience," Sharif said while accusing Musharraf of politicising the army and "mishandling" Pakistan by subverting the constitution by sacking his democratically elected government over eight years ago.

"That's very disturbing. Pakistan, unfortunately, is not in good hands. It's not in good shape. Musharraf is mishandling Pakistan. And one by one, he is hitting at the very roots of the country," said Sharif.