WHAT’S NEXT FOR KAYANI?
As I reported would happen, Maj. Gen. Nadeem Taj was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general and named DG ISI, replacing Lt. Gen. Ashfaq Kayani (alt spelling: Ashfaq Kiyani) as the head of Pakistan’s premier intelligence service.
Speculation in the media over Kayani’s future role is now hotter than ever, with pundits chiming in from all corners. Sources have indicated that Taj will not officially be taking over the responsibilities of his new post until next week, and it is then that the decision will be made determining where Kayani will go. At this point in time, it is likely that no one but Pres. Gen. Musharraf knows the real answer, but we certainly have a good idea.
Individuals familiar with the matter stated that in his future role, Kayani would be given oversight of all major intelligence agencies (e.g. the ISI, MI, etc.). Unless Musharraf intends on strengthening the office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) and thereby alienate his support base in the army, we can infer that Gen. Kayani will most probably be given the coveted role of Vice Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS); which would immediately translate into Chief of Army Staff (COAS) upon Musharraf’s retirement from the army.
In the meanwhile, Lt. General Tariq Majeed is the growing favorite by many to be the next CJCS.
WHO IS ASHFAQ PARVEZ KAYANI?
The reclusive Gen. Kayani, who often prides himself in how very little others know about him, is about to be thrust into the limelight.
The things that we do know about him reveal him to be a likely favorite of some very important stakeholders, namely President Musharraf, Benazir Bhutto, and the United States.
Kayani is described by many as first and foremost a professional soldier with no political aspirations. In Musharraf’s eyes, this alone, coupled with the fact that he is fiercely loyal the president, makes him the ideal candidate for the next COAS.
An infantryman, he got his start in the famed Baloch Regiment. Kayani also underwent training tours in the United States and still retains links within the US military. He rose to eventually serve Benazir Bhutto as her deputy military secretary during her first stint as prime minister.
His career progressed and he went on to serve as Director General of Military Operations (DGMO). It was during his tenure as DGMO that the intense military standoff of 2001-2002 between Pakistan and India took place. Reportedly, Kayani only slept a few hours a night during that period as he diligently oversaw the army’s mobilization and preparedness on the border.
In September 2003, he was appointed Corps Commander of the powerful X Corps at Rawalpindi. (It was the X Corps that launched the coup of October 1999 that brought Musharraf to power.) As Corps Commander, Kayani was tasked with hunting down the terrorists behind the twin assassination attempts on Musharraf’s life in December 2003. He successfully did so, infiltrating their networks and resultantly was awarded the Hilal-i-Imtiaz or the “Crescent of Excellence,” Pakistan’s second highest civilian award.
Nearly a year later, in October 2004, he was named DG ISI. While occupying the post, Kayani has operated relatively quietly. It was only this year that he appeared on the public’s radar due to his involvement in a number of high profile stories including the president’s negotiations with Benazir Bhutto.
However, nothing is perhaps more telling of Kayani’s apolitical nature than his involvement in President Musharraf’s dismissal of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. Kayani was present at the infamous March 2007 meeting that took place between Musharraf and Chief Justice Chaudhry, when the latter was informed that he was suspended. Accounts of that meeting narrated that Kayani was the only one among Musharraf’s aides that did not speak a word. Furthermore, Kayani was also the only one present not to have filed an affidavit against the Chief Justice.
Last but not least, even though he is admittedly not a regular player, Kayani is also president of the Pakistan Golf Federation (PGF). After he’s appointed to his next role in the coming week, the next big question will be: what’s his golf handicap? We’d like to be the first to address that – it’s 18.
MUSHARRAF TO BHUTTO: SHAPE UP
Though not officially ISI chief yet, Nadeem Taj is already tasked with an assignment. Well placed individuals have reported that Taj will be flying to Washington sometime next week to meet with Bhutto, who herself is due to arrive on September 26th. He will be carrying a hardline, Armitagian message with him from Musharraf: “Agree to a deal, or else.”
This news implies a number of things. It first tells us that as of yet, there is no final agreement between Musharraf and Bhutto. It also gives us the impression that Musharraf is anxious to come to an agreement as the time draws near for him to shed his uniform. With the powers of the Presidency and COAS, Musharraf is still negotiating from a position of relative strength. Bhutto may just be biding her time, awaiting for someone with a potential soft spot for her (read: Kayani) to move into the Army House at GHQ. Finally, the meeting’s location – Washington, DC – highlights the continued role that the US is playing in trying to cobble together a coalition of moderate secularists in Pakistan.
The pace of wheeling, dealing, and change is quickening. The situation is as fluid as ever. Stay tuned.