By Praveen Swami
“Since the birth of
Last month, the chief of army staff, General Parvez Ashfaq Kayani, made the latest of a series of moves to help
Lt. Gen. Pasha’s predecessor, Lieutenant General Nadeem Taj — a distant relative of the former President Pervez Musharraf — became a focal point of global ire during the year he served as
Lt. Gen. Taj’s tenure in the ISI also saw renewed skirmishes along the Line of Control in
By appointing Lt. Gen. Pasha, Gen. Kayani has signalled that he intends to rein in the Islamist hardliners in the ISI. But can he bring about a change in the institution’s strategic vision — and does he, in fact, want to do so?
In July, Central Intelligence Agency Director Michael Hayden and
Last month, Gen. Kayani lashed out at the
Despite the polemic, it was clear that Pakistan would have to make some changes in the ISI to sustain its relationship with the U.S. Gen. Kayani, significantly, turned to a relatively junior officer, just promoted from Major-General, to head the ISI: a position that, ever since General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq’s years, has been considered more prestigious than commanding a corps.
As DGMO, Lt. Gen. Pasha’s performance was, at best, mixed. He was asked to coordinate operations against the Taliban-linked Tehreek-e-Nifaaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) after it took control of large swathes of the Swat valley last year. Lt. Gen. Pasha turned to the jailed former head of the TNSM, Sufi Mohammad, for help. For a while, it appeared the divide-and-rule tactic had paid off. In January 2008, Lt. Gen. Pasha announced that Pakistani troops had retaken the Swat valley. However, it soon became clear that what the army proclaimed as the TNSM’s defeat was in fact a tactical retreat into the hills. Soon, the Islamist group retook much of Swat — with support, some accounts have it, from the ISI — and a grinding battle still continues.
Lt. Gen. Pasha’s record in
In practice, this record suggests, Gen. Kayani will be calling the shots in the ISI, which he headed from October 2004 to October 2007. His tenure was less than lustrous, marked by the breaking of the A.Q. Khan nuclear proliferation scandal, the insurgencies in Waziristan and Balochistan, and waves of suicide bombings in
General Kayani’s Army
Last month’s transfers mark the birth of an army made in Gen. Kayani’s image, dominated by officers he has handpicked. Lt. Gen. Tahir Mehmood now heads the Rawalpindi Corps, considered the third-most important military position in
Well before last month’s transfers, a discreet purge of the former President Musharraf’s key aides had begun. Major-General Athar Abbas, whose three brothers are reported to be working in the media, was brought into head the office of Inter-Services Public Relations to smooth the troubled relationship between
Each of these transfers, however, was handled with tact and care, to avoid the appearance of a witch-hunt. Both Lt. Gen. Akram, who was appointed in April 2006, and Lt. Gen. Shah, who was given his command in September 2005, were removed after substantial terms in office. Gen. Kayani personally attended a farewell dinner for Brigadier Bajwa, who was removed from 111 Brigade only after he had been cleared to attend a prestigious training course in the U.S. Lt. Gen. Shah was made Colonel-Commandant of the Baluch Regiment, Gen. Kayani’s parent formation, after having been moved from the Lahore Corps to the GHQ. Major-General Waheed Arshad, who was removed from the ISPR, was made Director-General of Planning at the GHQ, a position previously held by Gen. Musharraf’s close confidants Major-General Khalid Kidwai and Major-General Ahsan Saleem Hayat. He has now been made Vice-Chief of General Staff.
Even Director-General of Military Intelligence Major-General Mian Nadeem Ijaz — a relative of Gen. Musharraf who played a controversial role in the removal of Chief Justice Muhammad Iftikhar Chaudhury — was given charge of the Bahawalpur-based 26 Mechanised Infantry Division after he had been relieved of his command. The army was at pains to dispel the notion that Gen. Ijaz was being punished for his political misadventure, noting that he had been appointed DGMI in February 2005 and was therefore due to be moved in the normal course.
Gen. Kayani has also reached out to his rank and file. He declared 2008 the Year of the Soldier, frequently visited forward positions and, on one occasion, invited a group of subedar-majors to the army headquarters for a conference on working conditions. Gen. Kayani’s personal background, some believe, has shaped his conduct. The son of a non-commissioned officer, he represents the changing class character of Pakistan’s military command — in particular, the rise of officers from the socially conservative middle and lower-middle class to top leadership positions.
Soon after taking office, Gen. Kayani ordered his officers to sever contact with politicians — a break with the Musharraf era that signalled his hopes of rebuilding an apolitical, professional army. What remains unclear, though, is what vision of
Escalation of violence
The army chief hoped to disengage his troops from a gruelling and unpopular counter-terrorism campaign. Instead, the violence in the northwest has escalated. His efforts to purchase peace by reaching an accommodation with Islamists have yielded nothing. Despite the horrific terrorism
No great imagination is needed to see where this unresolved crisis could lead. Back in 1971, just two months after Gen. Kayani was commissioned into the army, civil war led to its decimation. It seemed inconceivable that
Source: The Hindu, New Delhi