Gen. Kayani, Pakistan and 2013
In what is unprecedented in the history of Pakistan and it’s armed forces, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan has been given a 3 year extension, and will now remain in uniform until 28 November 2013, after Prime Minister Gilani whose tenure will come to a close in March 2013 and President Zardari whose term of office ends in September 2013. Gen. Kayani has since become the second army chief in the history of Pakistan’s armed forces to be given an extension by a democratically elected civilian government, and the first in such a position to accept that extension.
On the evening of 22 July, in a televised announcement, Prime Minister Gilani stated his government’s decision to give Gen. Kayani an extension. Citing the extension as one of absolute necessity, given at a time when the war on terror was being successfully conducted against the many elements who continue to pose a threat to Pakistan, he said: “The success of military operations could only have been achieved under General Ashfaq Kayani’s leadership. He has been involved in planning and monitoring of operations in militancy-hit areas. These operations are at a critical stage and successful continuation of these operations required continuation in military high command. General Kayani is held in high esteem at the international level due to his excellent military leadership qualities and pro-democracy views. In the best interest of the nation, I, in my capacity as prime minister, have decided to give General Kayani a three-year extension in his service from November 29, 2010, relaxing the rules, and after consulting President Asif Ali Zardari.”
As a junior officer, Gen. Kayani briefly served as a military aide to Benazir Bhutto during her first term as Prime Minister. A chain smoker and an avid golfer, Gen. Kayani has earned the reputation of being known as a man of few words. He replaced Gen. Musharraf as the army chief on November 29, 2007. Before becoming the army chief, he served as head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and also as Director General of Military Operations (DGMO). One may recall that it was during his tenure as DGMO that an intense military standoff during 2001-02 between India and Pakistan, as a direct result of the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001, took place. Gen. Kayani was also known to have been present at the meeting that took place between Gen. Musharraf and Pakistani Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, prior to the latter’s ouster by Musharraf. In January 2008, shortly after taking over as Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Kayani issued a stern directive requiring military officers not to maintain any contact with politicians. Barely a month later, he ordered the withdrawal of military officers from all of Pakistan’s government civil departments. It was an action that reversed the policies of his predecessor.
The many factors and situations that have led to this extension are very interesting to note, considering the long and disturbing history of interference that the Pakistani Army has been credited with in that nation’s political system. Since the election to office of the present civilian government in March 2008, there have been a number of indications of Gen. Kayani’s warm relations with Prime Minister Gilani and the contradictory in the case of his relationship with President Zardari, which is widely attributed to an air of mistrust that the latter has had for the armed forces, something not very different from that aired by his late wife and former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto. Moreover, President Zardari’s initial statements echoing the need for a warm working relationship with India were viewed with a great deal of suspicion by Gen. Kayani and his colleagues in the army.
After assuming the office of the Chief of Staff, Gen.Kayani has been seen as being very assertive in matters concerning the Armed Forces, including the ISI, in a quiet yet decisive manner. He has also been accepting and non-interfering in matters concerning the political governance of Pakistan, which perhaps has earned him and the army a great deal of trust and credibility especially since the aftermath of Gen. Musharraf’s rule, that beleaguered the political establishment of Pakistan. Gen.Kayani, much like many of his senior army colleagues, strongly shares conventional suspicions nurtured against India by the Pakistan army establishment. He quietly fuels his determination to counter India, though not being too vocal about it, knowing fully well that a strong anti-India stance would help him win a deeply entrenched stand within the armed forces. That he has disguised it smartly, away from the glare of the media, shows how well he has played his cards in portraying his image that remains strong and appearing to be credible. His well established relationship with the leadership of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China, has contributed immensely to strengthening a working partnership with the PLA. However, one can note the characteristic absence in determination to take action against Al Qaeda operatives and their associates in places such as North Waziristan, for instance. Considering his warm bonhomie with the Chinese, he has not hesitated to act against the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which poses a threat to China. Barely a day after getting the extension as Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Kayani, accepted China’s advise on blasting the Attabad lake in Gilgit-Baltistan, which had flooded a portion of the Karokoram highway connecting the two countries. It is widely believed that Gen. Kayani’s extension would help the Chinese implement certain strategic policies in the terrorist hit region, which is very close to the Indian border. His actions, such as these have constantly proven how well determined he could be if he so chooses.
It may be recalled that under Gen. Musharraf, the Army and the ISI were much more active against Al Qaeda operatives in the non-tribal areas than they have been under Gen. Kayani. Having witnessed, first hand, the anger of Al Qaeda against Gen. Musharraf owing to the action taken by the Army and the ISI, which resulted in a concerted and powerful campaign by the Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri against Gen. Musharraf and the Pakistani Army, Gen. Kayani has been very tactical to remain aligned to the war on terror in a more superficial manner thereby not angering the Americans and at the same time turning a blind eye to the actions of Al Qaeda forces. Since taking over as Chief of Army Staff, a number of very senior officials from the United States have visited Gen. Kayani aimed to reiterate the need for an unequivocal level of Pakistani commitment on the war on terror. The fact that most of them, including the former CIA Director, Gen. Michael Hayden, former National Intelligence Director, V-Adm. Mike McConnell and former CENTCOM Commander, Adm. William Fallon, have repeatedly echoed their confidence in Gen.Kayani saying about him that he “knows what he’s doing,” just about very well shows how deeply connected he appears to be despite his commitment to the war on terror being anything but unequivocal. Described as a soldier’s soldier by senior military officials in the United States and enjoying a very warm and close personal relationship with the current US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, Gen. Kayani is on an even closer footing with the Americans, another reason why he has been endorsed as the best person available in the hemisphere to ensure the continuance of the war on terror. One would be right in suspecting an American hand, among the many, having insisted upon the tenure extension he has just received.
India certainly has enough reasons to be concerned over the extension given to Gen. Kayani. Given his hawkish anti-India stand, which although not vocal, there is unlikely to be any change in Pakistan’s policy of directing terrorism against India. Gen. Kayani, at the pinnacle of his career, enjoying good working and personal relations with both the Pentagon and the PLA leadership, is unlikely to be sidelined and is slated to grow even more powerful, while gaining prominence as a liaison between the political and army brass, not only in Pakistan. The government of Pakistan, although stated to be democratic in functioning, is in truth under the mercy of the army establishment headed by Gen. Kayani. His reassurance and commitment to the war on terror, though flawed, will ensure a steady flow of sophisticated military equipment and money to Pakistan from the United States and an enhanced level of strategic assistance from China which will, without doubt, add to the many threats already faced by India. Gen. Kayani’s persona, unknown and far from being able to be gauged, certainly covers a deep hatred for India which show no signs of mellowing down. The recently concluded talks between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan, are believed to have been scuttled by none other than Gen. Kayani and the army establishment. So long as such a potent force exists within the topmost echelons of the Pakistani establishment, it is certainly difficult to gauge if both nations could attain anything close to a working relationship.