Sharif sacked Musharraf after phone call: ex-army officer

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

ISLAMABAD - A telephone call was the final trigger for then Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif to sack his army chief General Pervez Musharraf exactly 11 years ago, triggering a chain of events that saw a military coup and the arrest of General Ziauddin Butt who had been elevated to the top post.

General (retd) Butt has spoken out for the first time on then Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Musharraf and the fateful day that saw the Pakistani army chief topple the elected government.

The general told the Dawn: “I do know personally that he (Musharraf) had some such plans since October 1998 when he assumed the office of the COAS.”

Butt was “appointed” army chief by Nawaz Sharif Oct 12, 1999 and the military coup took place the same night. The night saw Butt stripped of his military rank and he was kept in solitary confinement for two years at the headquarters of the 111 Brigade.

The former army officer claimed that the plan to topple the elected government was not a secret in the days leading up to Oct 12.

“We were aware that General Musharraf and his cronies would take over,” he said bluntly.

As Nawaz Sharif was armed with this knowledge, he decided to remove Musharraf. Ziauddin, however, was not privy to Nawaz Sharif had in mind.

He said that the government came into action Oct 12 when the prime minister was about to proceed on a scheduled visit to Shujaabad, Multan.

Shortly before he was about to leave, Nawaz Sharma got a telephone call from a “reliable source”. That call prompted the prime minister to remove General Musharraf.

“To date Mian Nawaz Sharif has not disclosed who the caller on the other end was.”

The retired general claimed that though he headed Pakistan’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence, he was kept out of the loop by the rest of the military in the run-up to the coup.

He said that one of his junior officers, Major General Ghulam Ahmed, was secretly reporting to Musharraf.

He also stated that on the night of Oct 12 after the military had taken over, a senior army officer, General Mahmud Ahmed, visited him and suggested that he denounce Musharraf’s removal.

Butt refused and ended up in solitary confinement.

“I refused to become party to the unconstitutional act carried out by the fellow generals,” Butt was quoted as saying.

He held General Musharraf, then corps commander General Mahmud Ahmed, chief of general staff General Aziz Khan and vice chief of general staff Maj-Gen Ali Mohammad Jan Orakzai amongst the others responsible for the coup.

Speaking on the Kargil war, the general said that Musharraf started the conflict without the prior approval and knowledge of the elected government, the media report said.

“Even the corps commanders and principal staff officers were kept in the dark.”

After the conflict, things had come to such a pass between Musharraf and Nawaz Sharif that Musharraf began abusing Sharif in private gatherings.

Sharif learnt about it as he was given an audio tape in which the army chief was using insulting language against the prime minister.

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