Daily Pioneer : Aide as successor

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Aide as successor

Wilson John | October 24, 2007

Gen AP Kiyani, designated to succeed Gen Pervez Musharraf, boasts of an enviable record of political connections, has been an ISI chief and is backed by the US Administration. Of course, he had his fair share of faux pas in every field

Lt Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, a Punjabi officer from the Baloch Regiment, till recently the ISI chief, pro-US and a supposed expert on India, is set to take over from Gen Pervez Musharraf as Pakistan Army's 14th Chief of Army Staff. He is the first DG, ISI, and son of a Non-Commissioned Officer to become the Chief.

It is obvious that Gen Kiyani's appointment as the Chief of Army Staff has Washington's approval. Gen Kiyani's appointment could be seen as part of the US's grand-strategy to foist democracy on Pakistan with Gen Musharraf as the President and Benazir Bhutto as the Prime Minister. Gen Kiyani has done three courses in the US, including one at the US Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth. He is known to the top brass in Pentagon. He has also been deeply involved in the discussions on the US-Pakistan strategic dialogue, particularly on the war on terrorism. Further, when the US launched its global war on terrorism following 9/11, Gen Kiyani was the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) (January 2001 - September 2003).

Though Gen Musharraf made it clear that he was in favour of allying with the US in the war on terrorism, some of his Generals were not so keen. But Gen Kiyani kept quiet. All along, as subsequent events show, Gen Kiyani remained his master's voice. Although the Army claims Gen Kiyani is an independent choice as Gen Musharraf's successor, facts belie this claim. He has been carrying out Gen Musharraf's directives and policies in Balochistan, the tribal areas, the alliance with the US and the peace process with India.

While Gen Kiyani should share some of the blame for the brutal crackdown on Baloch rebels during 2005-2006, it was Gen Musharraf who took the entire blame for not opting for negotiations with the rebels.

Gen Kiyani also played an important role in putting down the Shia rebellion in Gilgit-Baltistan in May 2004 when he was the Rawalpindi Corps Commander overseeing the activities of Force Command Northern Areas.

Gen Kiyani is familiar with the area as he was the General Officer Commanding at Murree in October 1999 when Gen Musharraf took over the reigns from Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad. GOC Murree reports to Corps Commander, Rawalpindi, and is responsible for military operations in PoK. GOC Murree acts more like a 'Viceroy' of PoK and is known to take an active interest in managing the political affairs of this federally administered area.

This is a significant clue to Kiyani's political experience, quite contrary to the smokescreen being created that he was apolitical. Nothing could be farther from the truth. He was the Deputy Military to former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and has been in touch with her even during her self-exile in London. Ms Bhutto had picked Lt Col Kiyani from four candidates in May 1990. He subsequently served under Prime Ministers Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi and Nawaz Sharif.

It was this exposure to politics that made Gen Musharraf pick Gen Kiyani to open negotiations with Ms Bhutto. Gen Kiyani's familiarity with other Punjab-based political parties - Pakistan Muslim League (Q) and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) - also can't be discounted.

It was during Gen Kiyani's tenure that local elections were organised in Pakistan (2005) which witnessed large scale reports of rigging and manipulation. The results shored up Gen Musharraf's hold over the country. Another important election held under Gen Kiyani was the July 2006 elections in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK). The election results were apparently pre-determined in favour of the party supported by Gen Musharraf.

Gen Kiyani is a hard-liner with an ear to the ground on India. He was with President Musharraf during his visit to Agra in July 2002. As a Major General, he was the DGMO (January 2001 - September 2003) when India launched Operation Parakram, a mass mobilisation of troops along the border to launch an attack in revenge for the terrorist attack on Parliament House on December 13 2001 in New Delhi. The dexterity with which he handled the Pakistani troop movements to counter the Indian mobilisation on the borders brought him closer to Gen Musharraf.

In September 2003, Gen Kiyani was promoted as the Lieutenant General and appointed to head the most critical Command, the Rawalpindi Corps (X). As Commander X Corps, he made a breakthrough in penetrating the terrorist cells that had planned the assassination attempts on President Musharraf.

As DG ISI (October 2004 - October 2007), Gen Kiyani played an important role in unravelling the London terrorist plot in 2006. It was the ISI tip-off that led the British and the US police to foil the plot.

Gen Kiyani had taken over as the ISI chief from a Pashtun officer Ehsan ul Haq who was brought in by Gen Musharraf to purge the agency of radical elements in the aftermath of 9/11. Gen Kiyani's task was to complete the clean-up operation, and perhaps set up a more clandestine network with jihadi groups. It was during Gen Kiyani's time that Al Qaeda and the Taliban managed to strengthen their presence in Pakistan's tribal areas and the Frontier province, and even managed to influence radical elements in Islamabad.

The influence of radical elements was seen in Islamabad when students, both men and women, of Lal Masjid took to the streets, calling for imposition of the shari'ah in Pakistan. The fact that the students, aided by terrorist groups like Jaish-e-Mohammad, could amass weapons and explosives within the complex poses a serious question about Gen Kiyani's tenure as the spy chief.

Gen Kiyani's role in keeping the jihadi strategy in Jammu & Kashmir (and India) is worth a probe. After the Afghan jihad against Soviet occupation, the strategy to use terrorists as a political tool aimed at keeping India embroiled in a proxy war and achieving a strategic depth in Afghanistan. Gen Kiyani as the DGMO and later as the DG, ISI, promoted this strategy scripted by Musharraf when he was the DGMO.

Gen Kiyani joined the Baloch Regiment in August 1971, about three months before the 1971 war began. He took part in the conflict which ended with the creation of Bangladesh, an event which had a deep impact on young Pakistani officers of that time. He was a young officer during the era of Zia ul Haq who ensured that all young officers were infused with Islamic nationalism and anti-India sentiments.

Gen Kiyani also happens to come from the area in Pakistan which has traditionally been the recruiting ground for the Army and where anti-India sentiments have been the strongest till date.

As the ISI chief, Gen Kiyani is at least partly responsible for the release of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen chief Fazlur Rehman Khalil (December 2004) and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami chief Qari Saifullah Akhtar (May 2007).

Many of the junior ISI officials, retired in the purge carried out by Ehsan ul Haq after September 11, 2001, have returned to the fold as contractual employees to aid the Taliban. These men operate from the ISI office in Chitral (Northern Areas), which supports terrorists launching attacks on the US, and Afghan forces in Kunar and Nuristan. Gen Kiyani as the head of ISI was aware of these developments and allowed such backdoor support to the Taliban as part of the overall Pakistan policy.

Gen Kiyani retires in December 2009.