General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani’s stint
Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani who had been made VCOAS in October 2007, took over the baton of the Army from Gen Pervez Musharraf on November 29, 2007 in difficult times when Army’s image had been sufficiently tarnished by the Indo-US-Western-own propaganda campaign, the challenges of war on terror and unpopularity of Gen Musharraf because of his scuffle with chief justice and imposition of emergency plus on November 3, 2007. TTP under Baitullah Mehsud had gained control over 18 administrative units in FATA/Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. To counter the false propaganda that Army officers had occupied most of the prized appointments at the cost of civilians, Gen Kayani withdrew all officers deputed to civil departments and forbade Army and agencies from interfering in elections in February 2008. These acts were not to the liking of President Musharraf.
The next thing which Gen Kayani did was to change the concept of conventional training cycle in the Army to low intensity conflict training so as to meet the challenge of guerrilla warfare. He promoted only those officers to senior ranks who were thoroughly professional, adept in the field and bestowed with leadership qualities. In order to boost the spirits of the soldiers and to make them valuable members of the team, he extended a highly rewarding welfare package for the lower ranks which included higher pays and pension, better rations and uniform, plots and houses as in the case of officers, wholesome recompense to the next of kin of Shaheeds and to the injured.
These steps helped in elevating the dignity of the soldiers and in boosting the overall morale of the Army. Over one year extensive training under new system coupled with the welfare package put new life into the Army and it undertook highly challenging operation Rah-e-Rast in Buner, Dir, Malakand, Swat and Shangla in April 2009 and another operation in Bajaur spiritedly. After clearing and holding the trouble spots, the Army got engaged in resettlement of 1.7 million displaced persons, relief and reconstruction works and produced pleasing results in a very short time. No sooner these areas were pacified; the media started deriding the Army on account of human rights violations in Swat. The US on the other hand started mounting pressure to clear the TTP main base of operation in South Waziristan (SW).
In reaction to the two operations, GHQ was attacked by a group of ten militants wearing suicide jackets during office hours on October 10, 2009 when Gen Kayani was sitting in his office. In the ensuing battle which lasted for 15 hours, the soldiers killed nine terrorists, captured one in injured condition, and rescued 39 hostages. 7 soldiers, five commandos, two officers (Brig Anwarul Haq, Lt Col Wasim) embraced martyrdom.
Attack on GHQ spurred Gen Kayani to launch operation Rah-e-Nijat in SW in October 2009 and clearing it in one month time. Those major operations followed by minor operations in other tribal agencies enabled the Army to recapture 17 administrative units, wrest the initiative from the militants and put them on the back foot. On the external front, Gen Kayani kept the Army fully operational through series of tri-service Azm-e-Nau exercises to meet the challenge of India’s Cold Start doctrine and also maintained effective minimum level of nuclear deterrence.
On the political front he removed the stigma that Army Chiefs were ever hungry for power and never allowed democracy to grow. Umpteen chances came his way to takeover power and massive pressure was put on him to get rid of the most corrupt PPP-MQM-ANP coalition government, but he showed extreme patience and coolness of mind and kept Bonaparte’s tendencies in full check. Wherever required, he guarded national and Army’s interests and didn’t compromise over national security. He advised PM Gilani to take back his ill-motivated order of placing the ISI under Ministry of Interior, and his decision to send DG ISI to Delhi in November 2008 as demanded by India. He played a constructive role in convincing the President to restore higher judiciary as well as Punjab government in March 2009 and in the process saved democracy.
The government declared passage of $1.3 billion Kerry-Lugar Bill (KLB) as a success of its foreign policy. None studied its security implications and none realized that over 50% of aid money would flow back into US kitty as charges incurred on coordination, distribution of money, housing, security and administration of hired staff. When Kayani raised his serious concerns over the KLB, all PPP leaders including Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi were distressed and repeatedly said there was nothing wrong in the bill. Basic purpose of KLB was to wash away misgivings and grievances of Pakistan against USA and to build trust and promote better understanding between two countries. It was to act as a harbinger for sustainable Pak-US relations. However, in reality it was based on the presumption that Pak is guilty of terrorism and nuclear proliferation.
KLB sought access to nuclear program and to all Pak nationals associated with acquisition of nuclear materials for Pak nuclear program under the plea of stopping nuclear proliferation; cease support to terrorists and stop cross border terrorism; government to exercise control over military budgets, over chain of command including promotions and appointments of senior officers. Continuation of aid money was to be strictly dependent upon Pakistan’s performance in meeting the US demands. KLB also catered for expansion of US Embassy in Islamabad worth $1 billion. It envisaged acquiring 18 acres extra land, building 250 housing units, inducting 350 Marines, 1000 additional staff and APCs. Fortress like embassy aimed at micromanaging Pakistan. In short, KLB was an instrument to deprive Pakistan of its dignity and sovereignty.
Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington Hussein Haqqani was seen more as a spokesman for US than of Pakistan. He was instrumental in adding certain anti-Army clauses in the bill since he carried a grudge against the Army. On insistence of Gen Kayani, an explanatory note was attached with the KLB, which removed the concerns satisfactorily, but at the same time it was an admission that original document was harmful but gladly accepted with thanks. Haqqani in league with interior minister Rahman Malik is also credited for issuing 52,094 visas to Americans between 2008 and 2011 without clearance from ISI. Employees of Blackwater and CIA operatives slipped in pretending as diplomats whose sole job was to establish CIA network, stoke terrorism in major cities and prepare maps of all nuclear sites. Haqqani strongly recommended opening of US Consulates in Multan and Quetta and greater presence of US at Khalid Aviation Base.
Gen Kayani was granted three-year extension in service in November 2010 on the basis of his performance in war on terror, which in that timeframe was in critical stage. The following year proved most challenging year for him. After the incident of Raymond Davis in January 2011, the US as an ally stabbed Pakistan in the back by carrying out stealth attack in Abbottabad on May 2, 2011 to get Osama Bin Laden. It was aimed at discrediting Army and ISI chiefs and strengthening the hands of civilian government to make the two wholly subservient.
Soon after this gory incident which shook Pakistan, a Pakistani origin US national Mansoor Ijaz with shady background was used by CIA to cultivate Hussein Haqqani and create misunderstanding between Army and Presidency and set the two power centres on a collision course. He came out with a story in Financial Times in October 2011 that after the May 2 incident, he had been contacted by Haqqani on May 9 to convey President Zardari’s message to CJCSC Admiral Mike Mullen to prevent Gen Kayani from sacking him and PPP government and that he in return would do anything wished by Washington. As a result of probe conducted by Supreme Court bench and filing of affidavits by Army Chief and DG ISI, relations between GHQ/ISI and Chief Executive came to a head. Gilani upped the ante by stating that he will not accept ‘State within State’, and ‘who issued visa to Osama’. A definite clash got averted when PM Yusaf Raza Gilani wisely stepped back. In the cross fire, Secretary Defence retired Lt Gen Naeem Khan Lodhi was sacked by PM Gilani in January 2012 when he refused to forward a letter to the Supreme Court negating the stance taken by Gen Kayani and Lt Gen Shuja Pasha.
It became evident from Supreme Court bench finding that Haqqani was deeply involved in the memo scandal and was the architect of drafting memo. He had suggested complete change of Pakistan’s security team approved by Washington and placed under him so that he could fulfill the hidden objectives of USA. He couldn’t have possibly singly taken the initiative. Zardari-Gilani forced Haqqani to resign after he was rendered speechless by Lt Gen Pasha in a closed door interrogation. Haqqani was sacked by PM to save his skin as well as those who were behind him. He was kept in Presidency and then in PM House to ensure that he didn’t spill the beans. He refused to present himself before Abbottabad Commission investigating May 2 episode on account of so-called security fears. It was a fatal error of memo bench to get duped by Asma Jahangir and let Haqqani off the hook by letting him fly to his safe haven in Washington on bail. None had any doubt that he would never return to Pakistan.
President Zardari feigned illness to proceed to Dubai for treatment, but the hidden motive was to take along Haqqani’s dual nationality wife Farah Naz in his plane to fly away to safer shores. He wanted to take along Haqqani as well but couldn’t. A journalist by profession, Farah’s interrogation would have provided vital details. No sooner she landed in London; she started firing salvos against Islam and the Army to please Indian and western audiences. Haqqani’s disassociation with the commission reinforced the widely held impression that he was fully involved in the memo. Whatever doubts some had were washed away after his poisonous article published in New York Times in which he lambasted the judiciary and Army to gladden the hearts of his patrons.
Hardly had the executive-military standoff in the wake of memo-gate scandal cooled down when executive-judiciary tussle took off on the issue of contempt of court case of PM Gilani. Defiance of the Supreme Court seven-member bench verdict by Gilani and the government impelled PML-N and other parties in opposition to blow the bugle and declare war against the government, which was already under intense pressure of the public owing to its corruption, ineptness and indifference.
Salala massacre on November 26, 2011 forced the government to distance itself from the US. While GHQ cancelled all military visits to Washington and stopped US training programs of Frontier Corps, the government closed Shamsi airbase and NATO supply routes. In reaction, the NATO-Afghan Army heated up western border with the help of fugitive Fazlullah led militants based in Kunar and Nuristan. Gen Kayani also had to bear the extreme pressure of the US to launch an operation in North Waziristan (NW).
PM Gilani was convicted by Supreme Court on April 26, 2012 on account of refusing to reopen cases of corruption against President Zardari. He was disqualified in June and barred from holding office for next five years. He was replaced by most controversial Raja Pervez Ashraf known as Raja Rental.
2011-13 saw missing persons and mutilated bodies in Balochistan hyped by media and vested groups to malign Frontier Corps and intelligence agencies. Figure of few dozens was bloated to hundreds. Geo TV and The News in particular led the propaganda assault to defame Army/ISI. Chief justice Iftikhar sympathized with the separatists and intimidated the law enforcement agencies (LEAs) by issuing suo moto notices. Investigations indicating most missing persons belonging to BLA, BRA and BLF brought no change in him or in media. Media-judiciary-Baloch nationalist alliance impeded the work of LEAs trying hard to defeat the foreign backed separatist plan and to win hearts and minds of the people of Balochistan through their development programs. Repeated killings of Hazaras further tensed security situation in the province. Ineptness and corruption of provincial government was another impediment in the way of military.
Besides simmering lava of Balochistan, Karachi remained ablaze due to high spate of target killings and street crimes. Economy was in shambles and the US was playing a double game. All these factors coupled with multiple socio-politico-economic-security compulsions forbade Gen Kayani from opening another battlefront in NW. To say he was hesitant to launch an operation in NW, or that all Corps commanders were in favor of it is figment of imagination. He couldn’t bottle the genie of terrorism because of massive interference of too many foreign powers, divided opinion over the war on terror, failure of civil administration to takeover captured areas, and failure of judiciary to convict and punish terrorists.
May 11, 2013 brought PML-N in power in centre/Punjab, PTI in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, PPP in Sindh and NP led coalition in Balochistan. Election results were accepted by all but a little later Imran Khan raised the bogey of rigging in Punjab only. Although PML-N had no role in the formation of interim governments, appointment of CEC and Election Commission, Imran held PML-N responsible for rigging and refused to get reconciled with election results.
Finding the environment favorable, Gen Khawaja Ziauddin who not only had to take off the mantle of COAS after four hours on October 12, 1999 but also suffer dismissal from service and two years imprisonment because of the military coup by Gen Musharraf’s supporters, he moved a case in Lahore High Court challenging his unfair dismissal and seeking issuance of all benefits due to him as ex Army chief.
On October 19, 2012, in an unprecedented judgement, Supreme Court indicted former Army Chief Gen Mirza Aslam Beg and former DG ISI Lt Gen Asad Durrani for manipulating 1990 elections. The order came after a 16 year-old petition filed by Air Marshal Asghar Khan in 1996. Lt Gen Durrani had admitted before the court in 1994 that he had distributed Rs 60 million cash to prominent politicians and journalists to influence the outcome of the polls which led to the defeat of Benazir. President Ghulam Ishaq Khan allied with Gen Beg had conspired to oust Benazir since she was viewed as a security risk.
Gen Musharraf who had gone in self-imposed exile to London in November 2008 after warm send offs by Presidency and GHQ, he returned to Pakistan on March 24, 2013 to take part in general elections. During his exile he had established APML in June 2010. He was advised by Gen Kayani and ISI not to return because of inauspicious environment, but egged on by his supporters he ignored their sincere advice. Although he is being given protocol due to ex president, he was debarred by electoral tribunal from contesting elections and was indicted in several charges like murders of Nawab Bugti, Benazir, Lal Masjid incident and for imposing emergency/suspending the constitution. He has remained under house arrest in his farm-house in Islamabad, in AFIC and in Karachi. Of all the charges, trial under Article 6 is most dangerous, particularly because of ganging up of politicians.
The writer is a retired Brig, defence analyst, columnist, war veteran, author of several books, member Executive Council PESS, Director MEASAC Research Centre, Director Board of Governors Thinkers Forum Pakistan. email@example.com