Adieu to Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani
Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani took over the command of Army from Gen Musharraf in end November 2007. As a result of three years extension given to him by the PPP government in November 2010, his second stint will expire on November 29, 2013. During his six years tenure he came across formidable challenges. When he took over, war on terror was in its sixth year and things were becoming increasingly thorny for the security forces to contain the rising militancy. Several untoward incidents had occurred which had impacted the morale and image of the Army. At the outset he called back all Army officers employed in civilian departments to put to rest needless criticism by certain quarters that the Army was monopolizing all organizations in Pakistan. The next thing he did was to forbid Army from meddling in elections and in political affairs as had happened in 2002 elections and afterwards.
He then changed the normal training cycles imparting conventional training to low intensity conflict training so as to train the soldiers to confront the challenges of guerrilla war. He extended a highly loaded welfare package to the lower ranks in order to raise their morale, prestige and honor. His next move was to promote only those officers to senior ranks who excelled in leadership qualities, were professionally sound and enjoyed clean reputation.
Setting aside the poor tradition set by his predecessor, he undertook frequent visits to forward areas particularly where things were hot. He tasked DG ISI Gen Shuja Pasha and DG MI to recover the lost ground in FATA and strengthen the first line of defence that had been sufficiently weakened during the reign of Musharraf because of full liberty of action given to CIA and FBI. Not only Kayani and his team have tackled the internal threats astutely, massive external threats posed by six intelligence agencies and belligerence of India and Afghanistan have been taken care of vigorously.
On the political front, the first challenge he faced was in August 2008 when PM Yusaf Raza Gilani issued an executive order placing the ISI under Ministry of Interior. Kayani convinced Gilani to take back his decision. The next difficult situation emerged in the aftermath of Mumbai attacks on November 26, 2008. Both Zardari and Gilani buckled under Indian pressure and agreed to dispatch DG ISI to New Delhi to give first hand explanation. Kayani once again intervened and made sure that the flawed decision was reversed.
When the Army was asked in end April 2009 to clear Swat of Fazlullah led militants and restore writ of the State, Kayani devised a brilliant offensive plan and within a month freed Swat, Shangla, Buner, Dir, Malakand and Bajaur from the clutches of militants. All out efforts were made to rehabilitate 1.7 displaced persons and to rebuild destroyed houses, schools, roads, culverts and bridges. The people of Swat whose minds had been poisoned against the Army now respect and love the soldiers and don’t want them to abandon Swat.
In the wake of increase in militancy, Kayani decided to take the battle into the heartland of TTP in South Waziristan (SW). A three-pronged offensive was launched on October 17, 2009, which broke the myth that SW had never been overwhelmed by a military force. These major operations broke the back of TTP and it remained in disarray for next one year. Hard hitting operations were also launched in Mehmand, Kurram, Orakzai and Khyber Agencies and Tirah.
Kayani resisted the persistent pressure of USA to launch a major operation in North Waziristan (NW), declared as the safe haven of anti-US militants led by Haqqani network. The US stealth raid in Abbottabad on May 2, 2011 followed by attack on Salala border post in Mehmand Agency on November 26, 2011, in which 24 soldiers died was a sequel to Kayani’s refusal to pull out additional troops from eastern border.
Kayani was instrumental in convincing PM Gilani to close down Shamsi airbase, block NATO supply lines, repatriate US-UK military trainers, cancel all military related meetings, visits and courses, stay out of Bonn conference, ask for an unconditional apology and an assurance that such a blatant act would not be repeated. It was under such adverse circumstances that Kayani was given three year extension.
Besides internal and external threats, Gen Kayani had to put up with a highly corrupt coalition government whose loyalty to the State was often questioned. While PPP and MQM was NRO cleansed, ANP leader Azam Hoti has recently disclosed that ANP’s leader Asfandyar Wali had accepted bribe from the US in June 2008 to toe its line. MQM leader Altaf Hussain had written a letter to British PM Tony Blair in September 2001 that his party’s services were at his disposal. Hussain Haqqani, ambassador to USA was involved in memo scandal and it is assumed that he couldn’t have sent the anti-Pakistan memo to Admiral Mullen without the blessing of top leadership of PPP. On one hand the soldiers fought the anti-State militants resolutely and over 5000 sacrificed their lives to safeguard the integrity of the motherland, on the other hand the politicians and bureaucrats kept filling their coffers with ill-gotten wealth and chipped the foundations of the country.
To make matters worse for the Army, foreign media in league with segment of Pakistani media left no stone unturned to soil the image of the Army and to discredit Kayani. Some said as to why he accepted extension in service; others coaxed and provoked him to throw out the gang of thieves destroying the country and capture power to save the country from drowning. Extensive pressure was built on him from mid 2012 onwards and when he refused to oblige them despite several lucrative opportunities coming his way, he was belittled for being a sissy. He remained committed to his pledge of supporting democracy even when PM Gilani sacked Secretary Defence Lt Gen Lodhi and passed strong remarks against the Army in reaction to affidavits submitted by Kayani and Pasha concerning memo scandal. The Army extended full support in holding elections in May 2013 and in smooth transition of power for the first time. Kayani has a hand in enabling the PPP government to complete its full tenure.
The detractors hoped that third-time elected Nawaz would live up to his reputation of locking horns with Army chiefs. However, when nothing of the sort happened, stories were spread that Kayani was seeking yet another extension or wanted to become Chairman Joint Defence Services with extended powers. In the wake of Kayani’s opinion that the biggest threat to integrity of Pakistan was internal threat, when Nawaz started lobbying for dialogue with militants and APC gave a unanimous decision to hold talks unconditionally, Kayani backed the peace process.
Amidst ongoing controversy whether Hakimullah Mehsud killed by a drone on October 31 was a martyr or otherwise, JI leader Munawar Hassan further confused the situation by giving an irrational statement on November 10th that Hakimullah Mehsud and militants who were killed by drones or by security forces were all martyrs and soldiers who had died in combat were not Shuhuda. His utterance has hurt Gen Kayani, all ranks of Army and next of kin of Shuhuda and the civil society. An unconditional apology has rightly been sought by the Army from him. Hassan’s effort to please the TTP should not be at the cost of Army which has stood like a rock between the ruthless killers and people of Pakistan and has rendered huge sacrifices for the defence of the country. Gen Kayani deserves plaudits for completing his innings honorably. Let us hope his successor also plays his innings worthily.