Kargil Conflict News Updates - July 1999

Pakistan contacts ICRC for return of bodies

16 July 1999,  ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Friday reiterated its demand by calling upon India to return the bodies of Captain Karnal Sher Khan and others which are being kept by it against all norms of decency and diplomatic behavior.  Billing it as "extremely regrettable and unfortunate" Foreign Office spokesman Tariq Altaf told a briefing along with Director General ISPR Brigadier Rashid Qureshi that there "is no indication when the bodies will be made available".  He said the DGMOs contacted on Friday afternoon and Pakistan reiterated its demand to return the bodies of its men or even of the Mujahideen. Indian DGMO, he said, told his Pakistani counterpart that he would try but "the bodies were still with the Indians."  On the identification of bodies, he said, the body of Captain Sher had been identified by Pakistan and his identification card number had been communicated to them. But Indian claim that the second body was that of Captain Imtiaz was false as Imtiaz was wounded and was recovering in a hospital in Pakistan.  Pakistan was in touch with the International Committee of the Red Cross to ask India to handover the bodies to it, said the spokesman. The disengagement of Mujahideen and Indian Army in Kargil-Drass Sector will take a couple of more days, DG ISPR, Brigadier Rashid Qureshi told the briefing.  The phased disengagement starting from Kaksar to Mushkoh sectors and then finally to areas opposite Drass-Batalik sectors were supposed to be completed in a few days, he said. There has been no fire along Kaksar, Mushkoh and opposite Drass-Batalik Sectors during the last 48 hours. He, however, said one captain of Pakistan Army was seriously injured during an exchange of fire in Mushkoh Sector on Wednesday and embraced martyrdom while en route to hospital.  Rashid said India has been claiming to have in possession bodies of 68 Pakistani officers and soldiers. "It is ridiculous as to how come they have the bodies of 68 Pakistani soldiers while only 24 of our men are missing."  The army spokesman said Indian television networks have been showing the shoulder titles, badges of ranks and division signs of alleged Pakistani soldiers. "Everyone who is a bit aware of the armies in Pakistan and India knows that the officers and soldiers deployed at such positions do not wear shoulder titles even in peace let alone at the time when Indians were firing across the LoC." He said Indians have been refusing to handover the bodies of the two soldiers which they alleged belonged to Pakistan for identification purpose. "Time and again they were asked to handover the bodies for identification but they asked for strange requirements. "We will be honored to bury these bodies in Pakistan if they belong to Mujahideen."  Rashid said India claims that it also possessed the body of Brigadier Nusrat Sial "who was killed in a helicopter crash in Skardu". He said Sial was buried in Jhang. "Have they tunneled from New Delhi to Jhang to retrieve the body."

Indian propaganda nailed; Maj. Asim appears in front of media

16 July 1999 Mehmud Ahmed ISLAMABAD: The Inter-Services Public Relations has nailed the Indian lie about the martyrdom of Major Asim, defender of an unnamed 18,400 foot peak in the north of Line of Control, and presented him before the news media here on Friday during a briefing at the Foreign Office.  Major Asim, the Indians have claimed time and again, was among the three officers they said had been identified through a letter from his wife with regimental and rank identifications which they said were found on his person.  The major was brought to the news briefing by Brigadier Rashid Qureshi, Director General of ISPR who, on return from a visit to the Line of Control, had heard that Asim had also arrived in the town.  The young, stocky, of medium height (5'-5"), bearded, with a slightly curled moustache major had withstood an Indian battalion's (800 men) onslaught on the post that he had been guarding since January last, with 24 men and two other officers. The Pakistanis vacated the 'post-on-the-peak' for re-grouping with fresh troops the following day only to return and evict the 70 Indian occupiers.  The incident took place in June last. Pakistan had lost nine soldiers, including Captain Karnail Sher (not Sheikh as mentioned by Indians) but had, from their vantage position, killed nearly 300 Indian soldiers whose bodies were personally counted by Pakistani soldiers. Qureshi said that after the Indians retreated, "we found five of our men missing, including Captain Sher."  The Indians had claimed to have fired nearly 12,000 artillery rounds during the three days of fighting and Brigadier Qureshi, who visited the location on Thursday, said he had seen the surrounding hills scarred. The Foreign Office spokesman present at the briefing said that Pakistan has been able to identify the body of Captain Karnail Sher but the Indians have so far not delivered his coffin.  He said Captain Imtiaz Malik, whose body the Indians claim to possess, was also alive, like Major Asim, and that Brigadier Rashid Qureshi had met with him on Thursday during his visit to the Line of Control.  He said Pakistan had contacted New Delhi and said that even if the bodies belonged to Kashmiri freedom fighters, "we would be honoured" to receive them for burial.  The spokesman said that the Indians had sent two pictures but those were not identifiable. Qureshi referred to an Indian claim that they had identified some 30 Pakistan army officers and 38 soldiers. They claim to have the body of Brigadier Nusrat Sial with them in New Delhi whereas the brigadier had died in a helicopter crash near Skardu, reported last month, and was later buried in his home town, Jhang. The Indians, he added, also claim to have the body of his pilot with them.  "How have they got these bodies? Have they tunneled from New Delhi into the graveyards here and retrieved them? This has to be found out," he quipped sarcastically. Qureshi charged India with playing politics with dead soldiers. "We shot down their military aircraft ten kilometers inside our territory, but we did not do this. We returned the body of their pilot with due respect and also the second pilot, caught alive after bailing out", he said.  He confirmed that Captain Sher had died as a martyr. "He was a brave officer, as vouched by his Company Commander,  Major Asim, who had ordered him to lead the attack on Indian intruders."  Later, Major Asim narrated very briefly the performance of his soldiers on the peak and told a questioner that the Indians had caught the name of his daughter from the wireless conversation he once had with his wife. While leaving the briefing, the major was identified by Nadeem Kiyani, a CSS officer on loan to the Foreign Office, saying that the two, during their training, had been course mates. The two hugged each other and exchanged pleasantries for a while.

Maj. Asim alive, Capt. Sher Khan attains Shahadat

16 July 1999  Anwar Iqbal  ISLAMABAD: The Friday issue of Indian newspapers praised a Pakistani soldier, Captain Karnal Sher Khan, who died on June 28 while defending an 18,400 feet high peak in Kargil sector. He died but Pakistan retained the strategic peak. "Indeed, he was a brave soldier. A very brave soldier," Brig. Rashid Qureshi, Director General ISPR, told a news briefing here. "He fought fearlessly," said his commander Major Asim, who defended the unnamed peak with Sher Khan. Asim was one of those Pakistani officers the Indians claimed to have killed but on Friday the ISPR produced him before the media at the Foreign Office to counter the Indian claim. Usually a news story is not dedicated to anyone but this one is. It is dedicated to Captain Karnal Sher Khan and other unsung heroes of the Pakistan Army who gave their lives, so that we could live. Eighteen days after Sher Khan's martyrdom, another captain, whose name was not disclosed, died while defending another Pakistani post west of Mashkoh. Sher Khan was a son of Swabi. And Asim is from Lahore. Together they faced the Indian attacks for three days and nights but never thought of giving in to a numerically superior and better-armed enemy. They were among those hundreds of officers and thousands of soldiers who volunteered to fight in the war zone. If text books of journalism are to be followed, this is how the joint-briefing at the Foreign Office should have been written: "Cease-fire along the LoC extended for two days to complete the withdrawal of Mujahideen from Kargil".  

India to recommend bravery award for Pakistani soldier

16 July 1999  NEW DELHI (AFP): The Indian military wants Pakistan to recognize the bravery of one of its soldiers killed in action in Kashmir, a newspaper reported Friday. Indian military officers told The Indian Express in Kashmir's border region that they had been impressed by the "raw courage" of captain Karnal Sher of Pakistan's 12th North Light Infantry (NLI).  The young officer reportedly launched a fierce counter-attack against overwhelming odds after Indian troops captured the vital Tiger Hills near Kashmir's disputed border with Pakistan. "It was suicidal for Sher to launch the attack in broad daylight because we could see his movements," an Indian officer said. "Yet, in the highest of military traditions, he launched the attack.  "We are a professional army and respect another professional soldier, even if he is from the enemy side," he added. "And we would feel happy if a soldier like him gets recognition for his bravery." The Express said India had made a similar recommendation about another Pakistani officer who had fought "like a tiger" during the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war. That officer was decorated for valor.  Pakistan denies any involvement by its military in the Kashmir conflict, insisting that all those fighting Indian troops along the border are Kashmiri "freedom fighters."

India slammed for delay in return of dead bodies

18 July 1999, RAWALPINDI: The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) slammed India for delay in the return of bodies of Pakistani soldiers and their exploitation for propaganda and ulterior motives. "The bodies had been handed over by the Indians after inordinate delay and exploitation for propaganda and other ulterior motives," ISPR said in a statement here on Sunday. "The Indians had to acknowledge the bravery, selfless devotion to duty and spirit of sacrifice displayed by Shaheed Captain Karnel Sher Khan, who laid down his life in the defence of the motherland," the statement said. Captain Sher, who belonged to Swabi (NWFP), was commissioned in a battalion of the Sindh Regiment and was performing duties on the LoC. He repulsed several attacks of the enemy on his position. Captain Sher embraced Shahadat during a heroic counter-attack, evicting the enemy from one post. While the Pakistan Army has said Sher Khan attained martyrdom during an Indian attack to cross the LoC. The Indians have their own version of Capt. Sher Khan's martyrdom. According to Indian Express, the Indian army is contemplating writing to the Pakistan Army about the bravery of its captain who fought valiantly in the Drass sub-sector. "Captain Sher won the respect of Indian officers defending the Tiger Hills feature and the adjoining hills, with his courage and brilliant attack. The officers of both '8 Sikh' and '18 Grenadier' watched the brave Pakistani captain lead a counter-attack to recapture the feature of the western spur of Tiger Hills on July 7," the paper said. An officer of the 8 Sikh was quoted as saying that soon after the soldiers of the 8 Sikh recovered the feature on July 7 around 8:00 am, Captain Sher with just a handful of Pakistani soldiers, launched a swift counter-attack. "It was suicidal for Sher to launch the attack in broad daylight because we could see his movements. Yet in the highest of military traditions, he launched the attack. It is a disgrace for any army to be evicted from a post and he wanted to save Pakistani Army from that disgrace," the official said. "Such was the ferocity of his attack that 8 Sikhs had to be reinforced by a platoon of 18 Grenadier. The Pakistan counter-attack was beaten back and 15 of their soldiers were killed ... under the onslaught of Indian guns, Captain Sher rallied around his men, encouraging them to fight on," he said. Sher fought till the end till a hail of bullets snuffed life out of him. Even as he fell, his finger was curled around his gun. "We are a professional army and respect another professional soldier, even if he is from the enemy side. And we would feel happy if a soldier like him gets recognition for his bravery," said the Sikh soldier.

Pak Army repulse Indian attacks in Siachen and Qamar sectors

19 July 1999 RAWALPINDI: Pakistan Army repulsed two attacks by Indian troops on forward posts in Siachen and Qamar sectors in Pakistani Kashmir Sunday night, an ISPR Press release said Monday. The new incident came a week after the withdrawal of Mujahideen from the Kargil region of Indian-held Kashmir ending a two-month conflict. ISPR said the Indian attacks, which were launched under the cover of heavy artillery shelling late Sunday, were 'successfully repulsed.' Pakistani troops fought back, killing 18 Indian soldiers, seven at the Siachen sector and 11 in the nearby Qamar sector, it said. The Press release did not say what the purpose of the Indian attacks was after the recent de-escalation in Kashmir. Observers said it could be an offshoot to the longstanding confrontation between the two armies on the frozen heights, located at an altitude of around 6,969 meters. Pakistan says Indian troops violating the dividing Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir intruded into Siachen in 1984 and it sent its troops in 1989 to stop the Indian ingress. The rival armies have suffered heavy losses in clashes at the world's highest battlefront with harsh weather claiming many casualties. Fierce artillery duels erupted between Indian and Pakistan troops along the 720-kilometer LoC in May when India launched a military campaign against Mujahideen to regain the heights in the Kargil region. The two-month crisis, which had brought the neighbors to the brink of another war, ended after the Mujahideen vacated the peaks under Islamabad's persuasion following Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's meeting with US President Bill Clinton on July 4 in Washington. Meanwhile, Indian troops Monday traded gunfire with remnants of Mujahideen still holed up near the disputed border of Indian Kashmir, military sources said in New Delhi. The firing took place at three places in the Mushkoh valley while Indian troops advanced towards the LoC, the Press Trust of India (PTI) quoted the sources as saying. There was no immediate word on casualties. PTI claimed some Pakistani troops also continued to occupy 'some positions' in the neighboring Batalik sector. The firing came a day after Indian government and military officials said that all the Mujahideen had returned to Pakistan. The offensive left more than 1,000 dead on both sides.

Pak Army repulse Indian attacks in Siachen and Qamar sectors

22 July 1999 NEW DELHI: An Indian Army general admitted that the Mujahideen were still holding some pockets in the three sectors of Drass, Mushkoh and Batalik and did not rule out the possibility of recurrence of tension in Kargil. "We don't rule out re-escalation but Pakistan has already conceded to the world that they would withdraw to their side of Line of Control and I assume they would abide by what they said," the Indian Army's Northern Command's Lieutenant General H. M. Khanna told newsmen at the Indian corps headquarters. Lt. Gen Khanna said the Mujahideen 'intruders' were holding an important supply route and added: "They have laid mines and booby traps from where they withdrew." He however strongly denied that aerial strikes were carried out today to evict the Mujahideen. The GOC Northern Command of the Indian Army said there were between 50 to 70 Mujahideen 'intruders' at one place while at other pockets the number was nearly 80. He said that all positions in the various sectors of Kargil will now be manned permanently round the year and added, "We have learnt a lesson to never let our guard down."

Pakistan still dominate Kargil heights

25 July 1999  LAHORE, Pakistan: The spokesman for the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Brig. Rashid Qureshi, said on Sunday that Pakistan was still dominating the Kargil heights and can effectively tackle any Indian misadventure.  "Contrary to Indian claims, we hold strategic heights on our side of the LoC and remain fully prepared to meet any Indian challenge", he stated at a briefing organized for editors of local newspapers and columnists here.  According to him, the two-and-a-half-month conflict in the Kargil sector resulted in the martyrdom of 267 Pakistani troops, 204 sustained injuries while 24 soldiers were on the missing list. Brig Qureshi said that these casualties had resulted on the Pakistani side of the LoC mainly due to artillery shelling by the Indian forces.  In comparison, he said, India suffered a severe thrashing and lost around 2,000 troops and as many injured.  "There are no bed spaces in military hospitals in the occupied Kashmir towns of Leih, Kargil, Srinagar and Udhampur and the Indians are forced to send the injured to distant hospitals in India," he said.  He further said that India lost at least five fighter aircraft, including a Mirage-2000 and helicopters.  The ISPR chief said, according to intelligence reports gathered from across the LoC, the Indians suffered such heavy losses that they ran out of wood to make coffins. "They had to make use of crates of artillery shells to send corpses," he said. Brig Qureshi narrated in detail the history of the military conflict in Kashmir in the post-Simla era which ultimately culminated in the form of Kargil fighting.  He spoke of hostile weather, difficult terrain and inaccessible areas where Pakistan was forced to deploy its forces along the LoC in view of the threat from the Indian occupation forces in Kashmir.  He said despite the propaganda that Pakistani soldiers were in the Kargil sector in the guise of Mujahideen, the Indians had not been able to produce even a single body of such person to justify their claims.  The ISPR chief rebutted the Indian claims of having buried the bodies of Pakistani soldiers on the Kargil hills. He said that a few of the bodies that India had returned to Pakistan were of those soldiers who had fallen victims during an Indian ambush on the LoC. He said that the disengagement of the Mujahideen had been completed and they had moved elsewhere, but according to reports, they had not come to Pakistani side of the LoC. "Where they have gone, I do not know," he said.  He categorically said that Pakistani military had no leverage over the Mujahideen while acknowledging that reports are still coming in about their skirmishes with the Indian forces.  As a result of clashes in Kargil Sector, 2,000 Indian soldiers were killed and an equal number injured while 267 Pakistani soldiers were martyred, 204 injured and 24 are missing. This was stated at a Press briefing jointly addressed by Federal Information Minister Mushahid Hussain, Foreign Office spokesman Tariq Altaf and DG ISPR Brig. Rashid Qureshi. 

Pak shells destroy Indian oil depot, India

26 July 1999  NEW DELHI: A depot of the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) on the Kargil-Leh Highway was hit by Pakistani shells on Monday morning, causing massive fire in the compound, said Indian official sources.  The depot located in the plateau area on the highway was hit at 0230 hours, the sources told Press Trust of India (PTI). The shells landed on barrels of mobile oil, coolant and gear oil, they said. The blaze continued for four hours, they added.  A company official said: "The lube oil depot caught fire after being hit by two shells. The roof of the lube oil shed caught fire and was damaged slightly." The official, who declined to be identified, said the fire was extinguished at about 3:45 am. "The depot had 92 drums of lube oil which have been completely damaged. About 80 of those had been partially damaged in previous shelling," he added.

Pak Army repulse Indian attack along Control Line

27 July 1999  ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Army has repulsed an Indian attack on its positions on the Line of Control (LoC) in the Kargil sector, an ISPR spokesman said Tuesday. He said during the last 48 hours, the Indian army resorted to intense artillery shelling inside Pakistan territory and tried to attack its positions. "The Pakistan Army took appropriate action and repulsed the enemy attack inflicting heavy causalities on the enemy," he said.  The spokesman said the Indian army suffered heavy loss in men and material. A POL (Petroleum, Oil and Lubricant) depot was set ablaze due to effective counter bombardment by the Pakistani artillery, he said.  Four Indian troops were killed as Pakistani gunners intensified shelling of military and civilian zones in Kashmir, officials said on Tuesday. They said two paratroopers and two commandos were killed in overnight artillery attacks in the zone of Batalik where Indian soldiers were de-mining posts vacated by Mujahideen.  Pakistani gunners also fired in the region of Drass, the hub of the fighting between the Mujahideen and the Indian soldiers that erupted on May 9 and continued until Monday. The Army here said that the Indian guns fired in retaliation to the Pakistani artillery attack late on Tuesday night in Batalik and Drass. Troops from the two rival armies also traded small arms fire in Mushkoh Valley on the Line of Control.

Pakistan can still block Drass-Kargil road, Brig Rashid

28 July 1999  ISLAMABAD: India could not have imposed a blockade to cut off Karachi port during the Kargil crisis as Pakistan had far superior submarines as compared to the Russian-built Indian ones, according to the Director-General, ISPR, Brig. Rashid Qureshi here Wednesday.  He was speaking at a three-day workshop on, "Emerging Realities on Kashmir," which was organized by the Information Services Academy (ISA) and was being participated in by senior journalists from the four provinces. "In no way could they have blockaded Karachi Port," said Qureshi, "but they did send their submarines into the Arabian sea". Of the over a dozen Indian submarines, only a few were seaworthy, he said. Pakistan in response to the Indian move had brought into the sea, its eight to nine submarines which were far superior to the Indian ones, he added. Responding to a question as to whether Pakistani troops would man the peaks on the Line of Control (LoC) overlooking the Drass-Kargil road, he replied in the affirmative. "Pakistan will man these posts on the peaks throughout the year," said the DG, ISPR.  Despite the best Indian efforts and repeated attacks along the LoC," not a single inch of Pakistani territory has been lost," he said. These jagged icy and razor-thin ridges were occupied by Pakistan in January 1999 to ward off a possible Indian move to capture these posts to secure their vital supply line to Siachen. To another query, he said, Pakistan could still block about 50 to 60 kms long Drass-Kargil road. If the Indians continued to fire on our positions, "we will continue to retaliate," he said. "We can still interdict it and we continue to dominate this area," he added. Indian dumping efforts using the Drass-Kargil road, he said, were suffering owing to Pakistani firing, he said. India has to dump ammunition and food for its troops in Siachen during this period as this Drass-Kargil road remains closed due to inhospitable weather conditions. He said Drass-Kargil was the only area along LoC where Pakistani troops had a dominating position while in all other sectors Indians were poised on higher points. The Indians had all along been shelling and firing on civilians on the Pakistani side of the LoC.