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Kayani – The Puppeteer

July 24, 2010 by  
Filed under war on terror

As was once said of Prussia, Pakistan is not so much a country with an army but an army with a country.

Pakistan army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez  Kayani, has been given a a three-year extension to his term of office to maintain continuity in the country’s battle against Islamist militants.

Kayani, arguably Pakistan’s most powerful man, had been due to retire in November. His future had been the subject of intense speculation for months, with opinion divided between  those who argued he should be given an extension for the sake of continuity, and those who said that Pakistan needed to build its institutions rather than rely on individuals – as it had done with powerful army rulers in the past.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, who announced the extension, said the decision to extend Kayani’s term reflected “his effective role in the war against terrorism and in the enforcement of rule of law in the country.”

Kayani is considered to have built a good working relationship with the United States - which needs the Pakistan Army’s help in fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan – prompting speculation, denied by the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, that Washington had pressed for his term of office to be extended.

He has also been the subject of intense speculation in India, where the views of the army – which controls foreign and security policy even under a civilian government – are seen ascrucial to determining the fate of the faltering India-Pakistan peace process.

A former head of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, Kayani has been credited with keeping the army out of politics on the whole.  Military analysts also say he has redefined “strategic depth” – an old policy under which Pakistan aimed to use Afghanistan as a rear base in the event of war with India – to suggest instead that the country’s strength should come from a strong economy at home. Yet under his tenure – both as the head of the ISI until 2007 and then as army chief – Pakistan has also been criticised for failing to take strong enough action against Islamist and Taliban militants.

Otherwise, relatively little is known about the thinking of the inscrutable general, who never gives public interviews. Pakistan, its neighbours and the United States and its allies fighting in Afghanistan, will now have another three years to find out.

Kayani strongly shares the traditional suspicions of India nursed by the Punjabi officers in the Pakistan Army, who look upon India as an ill-wisher of Pakistan. He shares the determination of the Punjabi officers to counter India in every way possible and necessary , whether in Jammu & Kashmir or in Afghanistan or elsewhere. Interestingly, Gilani  made no reference to the situation in Afghanistan and the tensions in Pakistan’s relations with India while justifying the decision to extend his term. It was the General’s role in countering the threats from terrorist elements in Pakistan which was underlined as the main reason for extending his term. He has a good equation with the leadership of the People’s Liberation Army of China and has further strengthened the military-military relationship with the PLA. The past relations which were focused on the two armies and air forces, have now been expanded to focus more on the two Navies. The joint counter-terrorism exercises between the two armies have practically become joint counter-Uighur exercises, with China increasingly relying on the Pakistani security forces for putting down the revolt of the Uighurs in the Xinjiang province. While he has been reluctant to act against Al Qaeda and its associates in North Waziristan, he has not hesitated to act against the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which poses a threat to China.

The decision to give him an extension, which was expected for some weeks, was announced shortly after the visits of S.M.Krishna, India’s Minister For External Affairs, and Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, to Islamabad. Krishna visited Islamabad for talks with his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, and Clinton for the periodic strategic dialogue with Pakistani leaders and officials. Official sources took care to emphasise that there was no linkage between these visits and the timing of the announcement. Some retired Generals close to the PPP such as Gen.Abdul Wahid Kakkar, who was the COAS during the second tenure of Benazir as the Prime Minister, are also believed to have assured Zardari that there would be no threat to his position or to the civilian Government as a whole from Kayani and that at a time when the country was passing through a difficult internal security situation Kayani should be allowed to continue. The Americans too, who believe that a known General is better than an unknown General, were keen that Kayani should continue.

India has reasons to be concerned over the continuance of Gen.Kayani as the COAS. There is unlikely to be any change in Pakistan’s use of terrorism against India. Kayani is thought of well both by the Pentagon and the PLA leadership. The resumed flow of sophisticated US military equipment to Pakistan and the enhanced strategic assistance from China would add to the threats already faced by India.Within a day of getting an extension as Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, accepted China’s advise on blasting the swollen Attabad lake in Gilgit-Baltistan, which had inundated a portion of the Karokoram highway connecting the two countries. The move is seen by observers as a sign that Kayani’s extension would help implement some of China’s strategic policies in the terrorist hit region, which is close to the Indian border as well. Chinese leaders are particularly worried about the possibility of Taliban related forces spilling over to its Xingjian region, which is going through a separatist movement for the creation of the so-called East Turkmenistan nation. It needs Pakistani military to keep the Taliban and other Islamic fundamentalists in check across the border, as well as cut off their links with the Uighur separatist in Xingjian.

Musharraf started as a fierce adversary of India, but mellowed down over the years. Kayani shows no signs of mellowing down. So long as there is no change in the attitude of Kayani and his Army, including the ISI, even if the elected political leadership sincerely wants better relations with India, it may face difficulties.

Did Kayani give this extension to himself? Known as the puppeteer in the current power equations in Pakistan, it is but natural to expect that while there may be many justifications for his extensions, the most plausible theory is that since he controls the strings to Pakistani politicians of the PPP, he announced his extension through Gilani. All this to give legitimacy to his capability to rule Pakistan without having to govern it. That he has now superseded a bevy of Army officers who would have been promoted upon his retirement is a coup of unprecedented proportions in Pakistan. Till now dictators gave themselves extensions..now the in service chief of Army has chosen to do so.

Kayani’s extension has reiterated that Pakistan Army will remain India Centric and that the support to Jihadis from Pakistan in India will continue unabated. Afghanistan would be used as a tool for gaining strategic depth and monies will continue to pour from US since it believes that Kayani holds the key to Talibani compromise and graceful exit of NATO forces from Afghanistan.

“When it comes to policy in regards to the U.S., Afghanistan and India, it is General Kayani who is calling the shots,” says Najam Sethi, the editor-in-chief of the Friday Times.

For now, we can wait and watch.


14 Responses to “Kayani – The Puppeteer”
  1. ajai pant says:

    A good piece on the developments in Pakistan post the Kabul and Krishna meet. It should be clear to the world that in Pakistan democracies come and go but the military stays on for ever.

  2. nannikapoor says:

    Chetan Bhagat has this naiveté rolled out for India in tackling Pakistan the brat

    We have to engage with Pakistan as if its people are suffering from an oppressive, gun-happy regime. To weaken the Pakistani Army, we can appease one general and undermine another, thus setting off the politics of horse-trading, which Indian politicians are good at. At the global level, India can expose the Pakistani Army as the biggest threat to world peace, and lobby for aid to be cut until the Army steps back from governance.

    Peace is our preferred alternative and we want to be nice. However, nice does not mean allowing the other side to walk all over you. India can offer friendship but if its agenda is ignored, we can – and should — make life so difficult for the Pakistani Army that they fall in line. Be reasonable but tough, and pretty soon, the insecurity behind its brattishness will be exposed. Then, like a child after a tantrum, it will be reduced to tears and run into daddy’s arms. That’s when you tell them: Can we talk?

    He needs to join the ranks of our parental control mechanism force to deal with the likes of Kayani who yield terror and nuclear assets as their strategic toys.

  3. Deepak says:

    A dead-end was always the destination for Indo Pak talks if you look carefully at how the journey has been mapped and at the fact that like victims of an obsessive compulsive disorder, India and Pakistan seem destined to repeat the same fatal mistakes over and over again. educated about the perils of such an event; especially when there is nothing significant to say. Think Agra; think Sharm-el-Sheikh — and yet, the two countries still get bizarrely fixated with that subcontinental peculiarity — the ‘joint statement’. It may be great gossip in power circles, but in real terms it’s a high-risk turf war that underlines the confusion over who is driving our Pakistan policy.

    If Pakistan’s army chief — who has just driven home his influential indispensability with a three-year extension — can be part of the strategic dialogue with Washington, what stops us from talking directly to the people who matter? In the past, Pakistan’s ISI chief Lt. General Shuja Pasha met with the three Indian defence attaches at the high commission in Islamabad and is believed to have suggested as much.

    Speaking from a position of utilitarianism, is it really India’s job to strengthen the civilian government in Pakistan, as is often argued? Or is it in our interest to talk to those in Pakistan who really frame and control India policy? After all, if we could be so dazzled by General Pervez Musharraf even in the aftermath of Kargil, why can’t we build new channels of contact with the military in Pakistan.

  4. Chanakya says:

    This significant decision, made public now, had been taken over a week ago with the consent of all top Generals. More than General Kayani, it was Gilani who wanted him to continue to head the most powerful institution in Pakistan beyond the date of his superannuation in November this year. The reason is that Gilani’s position will remain as secure as it has been in General Kayani’s Pakistan. Therefore, he employed a former Army Chief close to General Kayani to persuade him to agree to his proposal. President Asif Ali Zardari — who is surrounded by many controversies and has lost much of his powers, including that of appointing a new Army Chief and granting an extension to the incumbent COAS — had no choice but to accept what Gilani had proposed. There are clear indications that Gilani was not alone in supporting Kayani. Despite the denial by Washington DC, General Kayani’s continuance also suits the US interests in the Af-Pak region. The Americans were not sure if the General who would have replaced General Kayani would continue the operations against Al-Qaida and the Taliban as vigorously as is the case today. Significantly, the extension order for General Kayani comes after a similar decision was taken in favour of the ISI chief, Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, and a few other top army officers. India has to get ready to deal with the man who played the key role in derailing the Foreign Minister-level talks between New Delhi and Islamabad on July 15. He is a shrewd operator as he believes in running the show with remote control.

  5. Raj123 says:

    “Iman, Taqwah, Jihad fi Sabilillah”. So says, proudly, the motto of the Pakistani Army. Faith, Fear of Allah, Jihad in the way of Allah was how the Islamist General Zia-ul-Haq changed the motto from Jinnah’s “Ittehad, Yaqeen aur Tanzeem (Unity, Faith and Discipline)”. The Pakistani Army has lived up to the new motto ever since it was coined.

    Thus, Pakistan Army’s overt contribution to the strengthening of fundamentalism and extremism may be well known. For a long time, India has also been aware of the covert involvement of the Pakistani Army, and of course all sections of the Pakistani Government, in terrorism directed against India. They have been successfully portrayed as pro-Kashmiri freedom fighters by Pakistan, a line of argument accepted by the benefactors of Pakistan because it suits them geopolitically and geostrategically. Once the US and KSA decided to allow the ISID and the Pakistani Army to tactically control the Afghan jihad, and the CIA decided to upgrade the ISID significantly, the situation spun out of control. As it usually happens, such violent terrorists do not always remain committed to their benefactors and they do turn against them if and when the situation so demands. In the process, skeletons begin to tumble out of the cupboard.

    Kayani today presides over this motto of the Pakistan Army in leading his country into chaos and America had no option but to endorse his extension since most of the Talibani deals have been made with him. It would be interesting to see how this strange bedfellow formula unravels in the next three years.

  6. Manish Jain says:

    Kayani’s extension spells doom for any possibility of an Indo Pak peace initiative moving forward. The puppeteer will ensure maximum mileage from his term in office to keep the India bogey alive and support to Lashkar like groups to fuel the trouble in India.

    With a new chief, India could have attempted talks with GHQ, but with this one the possibility of a parley appears difficult. India would have to develop its diplomatic and military edge to humour this general.

  7. Drishti says:

    Kayani may have avoided interfering in the affairs of government, but he has left no doubt as to who calls the shots in Pakistan. In 2008, when President Asif Ali Zardari, in a gesture aimed at India, suggested that Pakistan might stand down on its first-strike nuclear capability, he was severely admonished by the generals. Later that summer, a government attempt to bring the military’s controversial Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency under civilian oversight collapsed in less than 24 hours. After the November 2008 Mumbai massacre, Prime Minister Gilani’s decision to dispatch the ISI chief to New Delhi was reversed under similar pressure. Kayani also intervened in March 2009 to avert a political crisis by pressing a reluctant government to restore deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry to the bench. And last summer when the civilian government cheered the prospect of U.S. legislation tripling nonmilitary aid, the generals stepped in to denounce its conditions as humiliating.

    Would Kayani go the Ayub Khan or Musharraf way – that is the question for the puppeteer.

  8. Sultan Geelani says:

    Kayani is identfied as ‘The Puppeteer. But just who is the puppet.? I suggest the puppet is the NATO High Command which caved in to Kayani blandishments offered in just one speech in the NATO headquarters in Brussels. Just one speech cooked the goose of Indian foreign policy, brought Karazai to loudly call Afpak conjoined twins, thumbed his nose at the West and went to Beijing to attempt joining Sino-Pak axis! Forced India to forget 26/11 mantra and go to Islamabad for salvaging its stranded diplomacy in the region and beyond!!

    What an effective pupprteer, by golly!!

    Sultan Geelani

  9. saleem shah says:

    The New York Times reported on Sunday that military field documents included in the leak by wikiLeaks.org suggest that Pakistan, an ally of the United States in the war against terror, has been running something of a “double game,” allowing “representatives of its spy service to meet directly with the Taliban in secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders.”

    The website charged that Washington needed to deal with Pakistani intelligence, known as the ISI.
    “There should be serious action taken against the ISI, who has a direct connection with the terrorists,”. “These reports show that the U.S. was already aware of the ISI connection with the al Qaeda terrorist network. The United States is overdue on the ISI issue and now the United States should answer.”

    All these activities have been unleashed by Kayani with US involvement. That appears to be the reason why the puppeteer has been allowed to continue for three more years.

  10. Rajiv Sharma says:

    History bares testimony to the fact that all generals have remained disloyal to the civilian government in Pakistan.

    Ayub Khan was the most trusted man of Iskander Mirza, but he compelled Mirza to resign. Iskander mirza was responsible for entry of generals in the Pakistani politics. Ayub promulgated martial law in Oct 58 and ruled till Mar 69.

    General Yahya Khan took charge from !969 to 1971 and presided over the shameful loss of East Pakistan in a humiliating defeat to Pakistan.

    Likewise ZA Bhutto appointed Zia Ul Haq as the COAS over many senior generals and it was Zia who toppled the first ever democratically elected government in Jul 77 and brutally hanged Bhutto. He cheated his boss with ingenious tools and promulgated martial law in the country. He pledged to hold elections in 90 days and ruled thecountry for 11 years. He patronised Islamic Fundamentalism politicised the military and spread the Kalanishkov culture in Pakistan. He was also the architect of Operation Topac – using terrorism as a strategic tool of national policy.

    Last but not the least Nawaz Sharief overlooked senior generals for the slot of COAS and appointed Parvez Musharraf. We know what happened thereafter.

    I strongly feel that Kayani should be no different and may shed his puppeteer role once he gains confidence of his corp commanders.

  11. nannikapoor says:

    Sometime back coinciding with the appointment of Kayani as the Chief, I had gone to great lengths to explain his role in the new power equations in Pakistan. Today that post appears to be childish but true. However, now is the time when the world at large has to understand that you can not let Pakistan be.

  12. Rajesh Kumar says:

    While India mulls over the shape of higher defence organisation, it is now anticipated that Gen. Kayani will replace Gen. Majid as Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, in the very near future, simultaneous with the announcement that the post will assume the function of overall military command. Thus, the Pakistani command structure will finally be re-shaped along the lines of the US, UK, Australia, Egypt, and so on, with all service chiefs — including the historically dominant COAS — coming directly and meaningfully under the Chairman, JCS.

    To prepare for this, a new Chief of the General Staff was recently appointed. Lt.-Gen. Khalid Shameem Wynne, the present Chief of General Staff (CGS), was now expected to be promoted to four-star rank in a newly created Vice-Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS) post, possibly to prepare him to takeover as the COAS once Kayani takes over as Chairman JCS.

    The puppeteer may then gradually transfer the power of the President upon himself.

  13. Ganesh Joshi says:

    Then there is this interesting story in the Dawn of 27 August which confirms the findings of this story. Why would Kayani fructify “Kayani is coming” story when he can be the puppeteer.

    Game theorists and political scientists and psephologists could probably articulate it in a more sophisticated way, but the basic logic isn’t very difficult to grasp. Before you do A — oust a government — you need to ask yourself, one, what’s in it for me?; and two, what will I replace it with?

    To neither question would Kayani have a very good answer right now.

    Start with the first one, what’s in it for Kayani? His job is secure for another three years; the political government has surrendered the national security and foreign policy domains to his guys; he’s got his favourite bugaboo, India, and his favourite whipping boy, the US, to play with in his favourite backyard, Afghanistan — he’s got pretty much everything a soldier can dream of.

    When you have what you prize most, job security and the levers to control your favourite toys and pastimes, why would you want to bite into a rotting apple? Answer: you don’t.

    Which renders moot the question of what would you replace the present government with. Bangladesh model, mid-term elections, all have their own set of problems. But that’s irrelevant because Kayani isn’t about to intervene.

    The puppets should rest in peace for the time being.

  14. Vikrant Khanna says:

    This is an interesting prognosis and we have some Pakistanis rejoicing that Kayani is coming!

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