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 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.
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: