When Gen Kayani took over the reigns of the Pakistan Army, he exhorted the rank and file to keep away from politics. He initiated moves to revert 152 military personnel on deputation to public sector institutions, which included six Major Generals working in the National Accountability Bureau setup by Musharraf to tackle corruption.
The self-portrayal of Kayani as an apolitical army man is to dupe the Pakistani people and the international community. It may be remembered that he was the Deputy Military Secretary to Benazir Bhutto when she was the Prime Minister, and later, with change in the political climate he inveigled his way to become part of the inner-coterie of Musharraf. He was Musharraf’s envoy to Dubai for hammering a power sharing deal between the exiled Benazir Bhutto and Musharraf before she was assassinated on return to Pakistan.
The constitutional emasculation of President Zardari and the consequent enhancement of powers of PM Gilani could not be possible without the backing or tacit support of Kayani. It is therefore difficult to believe that that there were no inducements or intimidations to Gilani by the General in securing extension of service. However, Gilani did not want this obvious notion to gain currency and so decided to announce the decision on television rather than through customary press release. Kayani, therefore, is as, or even more, wily than Ayub, Zia and Musharraf.
The recent extension of tenure granted by the ostensible democratic dispensation in Pakistan is a reflection of the fact that the internal dynamics of the country has undergone no change and the army retains its primacy. The country, as before, continues to rely on a single institution i.e. the military.
In the overall perspective, nation-building in Pakistan, has missed the defining moment of re-engineering itself into a modern and stable entity, afforded in the wake of 9/11. Pakistan has proved that it is incapable of introspection and change. The worrisome aspect for global security is that the US and its western allies have also failed in this endeavour. From being cornered in the position of “we will bomb you to stone age” or “you are with us or against us”, Pakistan has been allowed to bounce back to a dominating position vis-à-vis the US. This has happened primarily because the US, as in the past, continues to invest in personalities rather than institutions in Pakistan. Personality oriented nation-building is a recipe for splintering of a country sooner or later. Whenever, Pakistan breaks-up, the major share of the blame would rest with the US.
“¦Pakistan Military-Intelligence establishment does not brook any civilian interference in matters relating to critical foreign policy, especially with regard to India, China, US and Afghanistan; as also nuclear policies and programme.
This is not the first time that an army chief has been granted extension. It is very much part of the political culture of Pakistan. One bright exception was Gen Abdul Wahid, who refused a full term extension offered by Benazir Bhutto in 1996. Earlier, in the newly born Pakistan, Maj Gen Mohammad Akbar Khan (not to be confused with his namesake infamous for the Rawalpindi conspiracy, was the first Indian and a Muslim to become a General in the British Indian Army), who was the senior most officer (PA-1) in the Pakistan Army after partition, declined to succeed the British C-in-C of Pakistan Army towards the end of his term in 1949. In the true tradition of a soldier in those days, General Akbar declined on the plea that the job was beyond his competence. But that was then.
Thereafter, the army as an institution has been marred by perpetuation of the tenure of Army Chief by grant or self-appropriated extensions. Significantly, this is the first time, that a civilian government has given “full term” extension to an Army Chief. Iskandar Mirza, the Governor General of Pakistan and later the President gave Ayub three extensions. But Mirza was basically a bureaucrat and had no political base. However, after the last extension in 1958, Ayub usurped power from his benefactor. Ayub Khan gave four years extension to General Musa in 1962. Yahya Khan on taking of power in 1969 automatically gave himself an extension. Zia seized power in 1977 and extended his tenure by nine years (till 1986) after which he declared himself the President. Later, the Army Chief Mirza Aslam Beg vigorously lobbied to secure an extension through the establishment of a new institution “Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces”, a move that was torpedoed by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, who was powerful and by virtue of having served under three military dictators had an astute understanding of matters military.
Musharraf held on to the post of Army Chief for nearly a decade and bowed out only because of intense international and domestic pressures, in that order. Will Kayani be satisfied with just ‘extension’? The ruthless, ambitious, streak in Kayani, may well prod him to assume power as his extended tenure near the end, or even before that when the opportunity arises. His extension of tenure would result in increasing age and seniority gap between the army chief and the corps commanders, thus making his stature and position further unassailable within the army.
No wonder, over the years the distinction between regular troops and jihadis blurred, making Pakistan the epicenter of global terrorism.
The extension given to Gen Kayani should not come as surprise. His clout in Pakistan vis-à-vis the President or the Prime Minister was clearly discernable. The US and its NATO allies have contributed no less in strengthening this perception. It is evidenced by the importance accorded to Kayani in US-Pakistan strategic dialogue. It is evidenced by Kayani’s insistence on keeping India out of Afghanistan. It is evidenced by Kayani’s flirtations with Islamic terrorist groups and various factions of Taliban for furtherance of Pakistan’s agenda at the cost of ‘war against terrorism’ for which the American tax payer is being bled economically. Incidentally, the same tax payer is also paying for the perpetuation of indirect military rule in Pakistan, which can take the form of direct rule any time.
It is a well known fact that the Pakistan Military-Intelligence establishment does not brook any civilian interference in matters relating to critical foreign policy, especially with regard to India, China, US and Afghanistan; as also nuclear policies and programme. The sudden cantankerous posturing of the Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Mr Qureshi in his recent interlocution with the Indian Foreign Minister, Mr SM Krishna was a part of backroom calibration of Indo-Pakistan relations by Gen Kayani. It was a sort of replay of the role played by Musharraf during the reach out to Nawaz Sharrif by Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The Indian establishment needs to seriously ponder over the futility of spending effort, time and money in talking to civilian leadership in Pakistan, who are of no consequence.
The US dollars pumped into Pakistan have not changed the internal and external discourse of Pakistan. In fact, the same dollars are being used by the Pakistan Military-Intelligence establishment to keep the senior officers of the Pakistan Army, affected by Gen Kayani’s extension, in good humour. Traditionally, this culture of ‘sharing spoils’ has precluded revolt in the army. Nevertheless, the price the army has paid for these extensions and military takeovers is erosion in professionalism and the degeneration of military culture, which has manifested in increasing use of irregulars / jihadis for furtherance of strategic objectives of the Pakistan Army of which the ISI is an intrinsic part.