Thursday, September 20, 2007

Some Pieces of Weird News

In the past week since my last post little seems to have changed. Having said that, there is no denying that there has been a spate of rather peculiar news items.

Here are some of them:


From Dawn:
PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif announced here on Tuesday that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif would soon return to Pakistan from Saudi Arabia and lead his party in the forthcoming general election.

He did not give any specific date for his elder brother’s return but insisted that it would be soon, “immediately after Eid or even before”.

Comment: Yes, we all saw the pic of Nawaz Sharif meeting the Saudi King. Does this mean the whole drama was staged by Saudis just to allow Musharraf some ‘re-electoral’ breathing space?

From the Daily Times:
Benazir told Dawn News that it was unfortunate that her party could not reach a deal with the government, but said she would return to Pakistan on October 18. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t reach an agreement despite our negotiations with the government, but I will definitely return on October 18.”

Comment: Dear lady, if there is no deal (or secret understanding) then why are you arriving after the so-called presidential ‘re-election’. If you were the ardent democrat that you have perpetually claimed to be then you should have been here yesterday.

The Daily Telegraph reporting on the 250 or so missing soldiers in Waziristan since 6th September quotes a Pakistani army spokesman as saying:
"A situation developed where they preferred not to fire and they had to give up their weapons but that cannot be called surrender."

Comment: Hmmm…so when General ‘Tiger’ Niazi handed over his revolver to the Indian General Jagjit Singh Aurora he didn’t actually surrender either. It is likely that he must also have volunteered to go 'missing'.

However the strangest piece of news comes from Amir Mir. This journalist claims that Musharraf is now planning to clip the wings of the next Army Chief so that his ‘civilian’ presidency is protected from future upstart bonapartist generals (like himself).

Moves to weaken the next army chief
by Amir Mir

Having made up his mind to take off his controversial military uniform, President General Musharraf has moved to curtail the powers of the next army chief by reorganising the command and control structure of the Pakistan army – establishing three regional commands, which will be headed by three lieutenant generals in addition to the nine corps commanders, with each command having three corps under it.

A decision to create three new regional commands of the Pakistan Army – the Northern, Central, and Southern commands – has already been taken in principle, on the pretext of improving its operational efficiency and working. Under the revised command and control structure, all existing nine corps of the army will fall under one of the three commands, to be headed by a three-star general. The newly created Northern, Southern and Central Commands will be responsible for the administrative arrangements of the corps falling under their respective commands. According to well-informed sources in the military establishment, the army would be the second arm of the Pakistani defence forces to have three separate commands since the Pakistan Air Force already has three commands. While the Central Command of the army will be headquartered in Rawalpindi, the Southern Command will have its headquarters in Quetta and the Northern Command is most likely to be based either in Gujranwala or Mangla. The military circles say the idea to have three separate regional commands was conceived after a thorough study of the military systems of various countries having large contingents and the reformation was primarily meant to help build the Pakistan Army on modern management lines.

However, those familiar with the command and control structure of the Pakistan Army say the move reflects General Pervez Musharraf’s deep desire to erode the authority of the next army chief, assuming he decides to take off his uniform in the coming days. General Musharraf was elevated to the coveted slot of the army chief in October 1998 by his present foe Nawaz Sharif and his nine-year tenure is coming to an end by November 15, 2007. While the attorney general of Pakistan recently told the Supreme Court that President Musharraf is entitled to continue as the army chief until he appoints his successor, there is a strong possibility of the General elevating one of his closest military confidants to succeed him, but not without clipping his wings by restructuring the command and control structure of the army.

The successive rulers have always selected the army chiefs after careful scrutiny, but in many cases the chosen ones became the tormentors. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto chose General Ziaul Haq, who later toppled his government and eventually sent him to the gallows. Nawaz Sharif chose an Urdu-speaking Mohajir from India, hoping that he would remain loyal to him, but he too was overthrown and sent in to exile. As far as Musharraf is concerned, he has never hesitated to shuffle the command structure of the army when he has thought it warranted it. But he has always rewarded his friends and loyalists while acknowledging merit. That is probably why there is no serious sign of internal discomfort or unease in the army, although the fundamental factor for stability in the army remains its rigid discipline and organisational philosophy.

As things stand today, Musharraf has three options to relinquish the office of the army chief and appoint a new commander of his choice to succeed him. The first option is that he would immediately doff his khaki uniform before his re-election as president and make public the appointment of a new army chief, who would take charge on October 7, 2007. The second option is that he would only make the announcement that he would leave the office of the army chief on November 15, as provided in the Constitution, after his re-election in the third week of September. And at the same time, he would appoint the new army chief. The third option is that Musharraf would make known that he would appoint the new army chief on October 7, 2007, and leave the office after that, and his re-election would be held without uniform after this date but before October 15, 2007.

Before taking off his uniform, Musharraf is to fill the posts of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) and the Vice Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS), which are next to that of the army chief. Presently, there are two four-star generals in the army besides Musharraf – Vice Chief of Army Staff, General Ahsan Salim Hayat, and Chairman Joints Chief of Staff Committee, General Ehsanul Haq. General Ahsan Salim Hayat can automatically succeed Musharraf if the latter chooses to doff the uniform before the retirement of the former, due on October 7, 2007. General Ahsan may also be granted extension to assume the COAS office if Musharraf quits the army after October 2007.

However, military circles simply rule out the possibility of Musharraf letting a senior general like Ahsan Salim assume the powerful office of the army chief. These circles believe Musharraf would most probably appoint a true loyalist who would be ready to act as a subservient army chief under the command of his former senior. These circles even say the incumbent CJCSC General Ehsanul Haq and VCOAS General Ahsan Salim Hayat are not interested in seeking extension in their terms and they have already initiated plans for the process to relinquish their respective assignments through farewell meetings in various formations of the army. One thing thus becomes clear that Musharraf would choose the next army chief from amongst the present top 12 lieutenant generals. A cursory glance at the list makes interesting reading and provides some idea about the diverse possibilities that exist, and the kind of choice that Musharraf has for selecting his successor.

As a matter of fact, the 12 Corps Commanders, currently heading vital divisions of the army, were all hand-picked by General Musharraf and some were even part of the military coup staged by him. They include (in the order of seniority): Lieutenant General Khalid Ahmed Kidwai (Director General Strategic Plans Division), Lieutenant General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani (Director General Inter-Services Intelligence), Lieutenant General Malik Arif Hayat (Serving in the GHQ), Lieutenant General Tariq Majeed (Corps Commander, Rawalpindi), Lieutenant General Mohammed Safdar (Chief of Logistical Service), Lieutenant General Ather Ali (Director General at the Joint Staff Headquarters), Lieutenant General Wasim Ahmad Ashraf (Corps Commander, Gujranwala), Lieutenant General Mohammed Sabir (Military Secretary, GHQ), Lieutenant General Imtiaz Hussain (Adjutant General, GHQ), Lieutenant General Muhammad Afzal Muzzaffar (Quarter Master General, GHQ), Lieutenant General Hamid Rab Nawaz (Inspector General Training and Evaluation, GHQ) and Lieutenant General Muhammad Salahuddin Satti (Chief of General Staff, GHQ).

Lieutenant General Khalid Ahmed Kidwai, Director-General of the Strategic Plans Division tops the list of the incumbent lieutenant generals. But the problem is that he is already on extension and is not likely to be considered for the post of the army chief or the VCOAS. But there are those in the military circles who believe that due to his deep involvement with the military’s strategic nuclear assets, he may have an outside chance to become the CJCSC. If a combination of seniority and competence remains the criterion, then the Director General of the all-powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lieutenant General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani, may pair with Kidwai to be the new VCOAS. But if Lieutenant General Kidwai is out, insiders say, the two senior most three-star generals who qualify for the two coveted posts are Lieutenant General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani pairing with the Commander 10 Corps, Lieutenant General Tariq Majeed, with the former being elevated to the largely ceremonial post of CJCSC and the latter being made the VCOAS.

Informed military circles say unblemished loyalty and a meeting of minds had always been more important considerations for Musharraf than formal traditions or institutional niceties. Lieutenant General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani and Lieutenant General Tariq Majeed both are known as hardcore Musharraf loyalists, as well as hard-line professional soldiers. They are from the Baloch Regiment and had earlier headed the Military Intelligence (MI) in different times, one after the other. Yet, Lieutenant General Kiyani has more chances to be elevated because of his having emerged in recent times as a close confidant of Musharraf. His role as a negotiator for the president trying to strike a power-sharing deal with Benazir Bhutto during their recent London parleys is proof of the closeness he shares with his boss. He had been directly involved in the Musharraf-Benazir talks because of his past association with Benazir, being her deputy military secretary during her first tenure as prime minister.

However, in case a new tradition is established and General Musharraf opts to depart from tradition by bringing in a dark horse to replace him, Lieutenant General Salahuddin Satti, the Chief of General Staff, who ranks number 12 on the seniority list of the top 12 lieutenant generals, could be the choice for the slot of the VCOAS, along with Lieutenant General Muhammad Sabir, currently the Military Secretary to the GHQ, being appointed the CJCSC. Over the course of the last eight years in power since his October 1999 military takeover, General Musharraf has shunted, transferred, promoted, sacked or retired scores of army officers in order to suit his idea of the sort of army high command that he needs. And that is why when it is time for some of the top generals to go home, they will do so without a whimper because of once being the beneficiaries of Musharraf’s systematic largesse.


Ahsan said...

whatever his motives may be, isn't curtailing the powers of the head of the army a positive step for the future stability of civilian institutions in the country?

Kashif said...

@Ahsan: His primary motive is to keep his seat secure for as long as he can. He will be a civilian president with the power to dissolve assemblies and with less authoritarian COAS in place. However, this is still 'his' idea and no guarantee Army will approve it.

Ahsan said...

yes, the question of how the army itself will react is an open one. my point was only that if one is looking from the perspective of civilian/democratic institutions in the future, mitigated powers for the coas is no bad thing.

ah, to 58 2 b or not to be, that is the question.

libertarian said...

ahsan: restructuring the Army Chief's powers does not equal restructuring the Army. If Mush started putting Army businesses up for civilian privatization it would be more convincing. Till the money is turned off - from those businesses, Uncle Sam, and the Saudi nutjobs - the Army will have too much skin in the game to retreat from the political arena.

Anonymous said...

my prediction -

supreme court will allow musharaf without uniform.

mushy will allow Nawaz back into Pakistan.


Fahim said...

He plans to remain here and we can't put any obstacle before him.Lets now see how cleverly he would become the next President of Pakistan with all holds on army as well and regardless of whatever the decions made by the Supreme Court.Also read the following interesting links:

Fahim said...

I have also read a review on the same article at the following link,..Really Interesting:

Anonymous said...

But what nobody is pointing is Benazir's weirdest statements. Not one of her statements is for Pakistanis. You can easily see that all her statements are for the consumption of White House and British government.


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