Related post: Good riddance, General Pasha!
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani today (22 July 2010) extended the term of the country’s army chief General Ashfaq Kayani for three more years in a move to ensure continuity in the fight against extremist Deobandi militancy by the Taliban and Sipah-e-Sahaba.
“I have decided to extend tenure of army chief General Ashfaq Kayani for three years in consultations with President Asif Ali Zardari,” Gilani said in a brief televised address to the nation. He said the decision has been taken after relaxing the rules and keeping in view the active role played by Kayani in the war against terror.
The extension period will start from November 29. Kayani assumed command of the Pakistan army in November 2007 after his predecessor Pervez Musharraf relinquished command amid international pressure to end his eight years of military rule.
Effectively this means that after the apparent 8 years of General Musharraf’s military rule, Pakistan is currently (at the backstage) led by his successor, General Kayani, for at least six years.
While my friend Raza Rumi has lauded the decision by writing a column titled “Good luck, General Kayani” in the Express Tribune, my views are somewhat different. According to a commentator on ET: “Interesting to see Rumi Sb side with what amounts to a subversion of merit that a 3-year tenure is designed to guarantee. What this says is that the entire general staff of the world’s 6th largest military is incapable of fielding a suitable enough candidate to take over a position that comes with an end-date. Hardly the kind of stuff that boosts confidence in a nuclear-armed outfit. If such be the case, “good luck” Pakistan.”
There are some obvious concerns about this extension:
1. General Kayani is a proponent of the good Taliban theory. In other words, he is in favour of maintaining, protecting and supporting extremist networks of jihadi and sectarian groups, in particular the Haqqani group, the Quetta Shura, the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Sipah-e-Sahaba. One must not ignore the fact that Kayani led the ISI from 2004 to 2007, exactly the period when the Taliban staged their comeback in Afghanistan, allegedly with the agency’s support. Now Kayani is leading the Pakistan military’s efforts to cement a new regime in Kabul that is pro-Pakistan, which means including representatives of the (good) Taliban. (Source)
2. General Kayani personally made sure that a high power joint investigation into Benazir Bhutto’s murder in the light of the UN Commission Report remains ineffectual and inconclusive. He unduly used his powers to impede investigation of high ranking army officers involved in Benazir Bhutto’s murder.
3. General Kayani used his influence to restore a corrupt judge (Iftikhar Chaudhry) as Chief Justice of Pakistan’s apex court in order to gain cheap popularity and after taking an assurance that Justice Chaudhry will desist from taking further judicial action against the ISI (in the case of disappeared persons). (This is despite the fact that Kayani was present at the infamous March 2007 meeting that took place between Musharraf and Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, when the former military ruler informed the strong-willed top judge that he was suspended.)
4. General Kayani broke the rules and norms of parliamentary democracy by issuing a press release (after a corps commanders conference) forcing Pakistani generals’ terms and dictates on Pakistan’s civilian government’s negotiation with the USA on the Kerry-Lugar Bill. (It is the same army chief who slapped PM Gilani around when Gilani promised General Pasha would visit Mumbai after 26/11. It is the same army chief who sent President Zardari through the wringer for daring to put the ISI under civilian rule.)
5. General Kayani’s extension is also unfair from Pakistan Army’s organizational hierarchy perspective. Even though he might have done his job relatively well (compared to his predecessor General Musharraf), it is important to take into account that he is not pushed beyond retirement age as other Generals are waiting in line too, and their promotions are affected by such moves. (Source)
6. In Kamran Shafi’s words: Why should Kayani himself accept an extension even if it is handed to him on a silver platter? The Pakistan Army, we are told ad nauseam, is one of the best fighting forces in the world, commanded by some of the finest strategists in the universe. Is there no one who can replace Kayani then, when his tenure is over and he goes home like many generals before him, even some graceful Pakistani generals? More importantly, our generals should see how Indian army chiefs quietly go home every three years, handing over command to their replacements.
7. It may be noted that only a few months ago, in March 2010, General Kayani decided to extend the tenure of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt.Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, a decision which according to an editorial in daily Dawn indicated that the Pakistan Army is acting as a “law unto itself”. The editorial in The Dawn questioned General Kayani’s move to grant a one-year extension in service to Shuja bypassing all necessary guidelines. It also rejected explanations that the country’s security situation demanded ‘continuity’ in the highest office of the ISI, while pointing out that there has been no talk of ‘exemptions’ and ’special considerations’ for top US or British military offices in Afghanistan, where the situation is far more hostile than Pakistan. “Technically, the ISI chief, supposedly selected by the Prime Minister, can be a civilian but the army has traditionally not allowed anyone from outside the service to occupy that office,” the editorial said. (Source)
8. Kamran Shaif identifies a number of reasons why General Kayani must not be given (or himself must not accept) an extension:
There are several other reasons why there should be no extensions: the new chief may well bring a fresh and a new and a more dynamic approach to the task at hand; second, that those standing in line are not deprived of their right to deserved promotion. In our case, we must note that both the COAS (Chief of Army Staff) and the CJCSC (Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee) are due to retire one after the other.
If the COAS gets an extension, why not the CJCSC too? In which case not one but two deserving officers get passed over, with a ripple effect going down the ranks leaving a bad taste in many mouths.
My advice to Gen Kayani would be to issue his last Order of the Day on the appointed date of his retirement, receive his successor in GHQ, and after a cup of tea get into his private car and fade away like many great generals before him. In the time that he has as COAS, might I suggest he announce the scrapping of the completely needless and wasteful new GHQ in Islamabad and the return of the land to the Pakistani government for auctioning it to the highest bidder and using the proceeds to provide potable water to the populace at large.
He should also order the immediate ceasing of all commercial activities by units and formations through their messes and clubs, such as holding marriage functions and running bakeries and bridal boutiques. Organisations such as the Fauji Foundation and the Army Welfare Trust, and the factories and banks and cement and real estate and travel businesses they run should immediately be auctioned to the highest bidder and the money realised put into a welfare fund for soldiers, junior commissioned officers and officers at the ratio of 85:10:5. He will then go down as a great COAS who corrected grave wrongs, and a good general who trained up his successor like other successful generals before him. (Extensions and prisons – by Kamran Shafi, Dawn, 22 July 2010).
9. According to Info Sage: Whispers in the corridors of power already suggested that General Kayani would not seek an extension but would gracefully accept if invited to serve the country for a little while longer. Arguing in the Pakistan media on behalf of Kayani, have been some patent assets of Pakistan’s ISI, e.g., Zafar Hilaly, a former diplomat and now a columnist, Shahzad Choudhry, a former Air Vice Marshall and High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and Ikram Sehgal, a former Army Major and now a defence and strategic analyst.
10. Pakistan army’s top generals had previously communicated through their agent in Pakistani media, Muhammad Saleh Zaafir, that they had instructed the civilian government to grant extension to General Kayani. (Source)
11. Ayesha Siddiqa, writing on her blog on May 13 (What’s up in the GHQ), is very blunt when she says that the Army chief’s office was feeding its favourite journalists with stories about General Kayani’s continuation.Ayesha Siddiqa, writing on her blog on May 13 (What’s up in the GHQ), is very blunt when she says that the Army chief’s office was feeding its favourite journalists with stories about General Kayani’s continuation. Her contention, and this is a reasonable contention, is that a decision to extend the term would depend upon three factors – an agreement within the GHQ, a nod from the US and support of the political government. The political government is on the back foot and Zardari himself is considerably weakened. There would be very little resistance from the political set up. It is true that the US would like continuity and General Kayani becomes the preferred option, but only if he is perceived to be able to deliver on US objectives. (Info Sage)
Obviously, the decision of General Kayani’s extension was not made by but enforced upon the civilian government by our gods in khaki. A bad decision nonetheless.
There is however an interesting aspect of this extension. Effectively, General Kayani’s tenure as army chief (6 years at least) will be longer than the 5 year tenure of the elected government. Did we really vie for this type of continuity (military generals’ de facto or de jure power) in ‘the system’?