Musharraf – my commanderAugust 5, 2009
(Monday, August 03, 2009)
It has now become fashionable to find faults with the former president and the print media is full of sensational stories and this has prompted me to write this. What hurts me is criticism of General Musharraf in the man’s absence. Where are his friends and colleagues who helped him overthrow Nawaz Sharif’s government and devised ways and means to ensure that his regime last for as long as it did. I first met the general when I was commanding a battalion in Kharian and where Musharraf was corps commander. He called all the commanding officers of his formation and spoke to them in a very clear manner telling them what the army expected from the formation and how he would conduct his job and carry out his responsibilities. He was absolutely clear and set excellent operational objectives and it was obvious that he was someone who led from the front.
The corps commander designed a battle course spread over three days. My battalion was the first one to implement this concept and the late Lt-Gen Jamshed Gulzar Kayani was the general officer commanding. I had to give a presentation and was understandably quite nervous but General Musharraf was so charismatic and forthright that I felt at ease. He listened to the briefing with rapt attention and said that theoretically it was fine but had to be tested in the field. He remained awake with us throughout the night to observe the exercise and this was a rewarding experience for all of us. I did observe, however, that he likes to be pampered and trusts his subordinates blindly.
After serving one year in Kharian, I was posted to an important desk at GHQ. During my time there I found him to have an excellent grasp of issues and that he had immense love for his subordinates. He was very kind and magnanimous by nature and I remember during his visit to formations after Kargil that he would listened to very pointed criticism. In one of such gatherings a young officer was very harsh with him but the general listened to him politely. He was a corps commander par excellence. However, he was also very ambitious, vulnerable to praise and perhaps too trusting.
I will not defend him for breaching merit but these are compulsions of dictators all over the world. Let me ask a few questions, however. For instance, could he have planned and executed Kargil single-handedly? Where are his staff and commanders? Could he take over all by himself? Who helped him organise and carry out the referendum? Who elected him president in uniform and who pledged that they would do it again, and again? Those people who were part and parcel of all this need to come forward and bear part of the blame for what happened.
For me he was the most inspiring commander in my service and I still cherish his excellent leadership traits.
Brig (r) Asif Alvi, Karachi