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Ex-spymaster takes over reins of Pak army
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 28
The taking over of the post of the army chief of Pakistan by Lt Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, an ex-spymaster and a Punjabi officer from the famed Baloch Regiment, clearly reflects the important role that the USA is playing in the solving matters in Islamabad.

Till recently the vice-chief of army staff and ISI chief, the pro-USA and an old India hand, the chain-smoking, reclusive General is the first DG, ISI, to take over as the Pakistan army’s 14th chief of army staff.

Kiyani’s appointment has Washington’s nod. He is certainly not part of Pervez Musharraf’s inner coterie and his appointment can be seen as part of the USA grand-strategy to pass off democracy on Pakistan with Musharraf as the civilian President and a civilian Prime Minister.

Kiyani has done three courses in the USA, including one at US Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth. The top brass in Pentagon knows him, a clear reference to which was made by a US State Department spokesperson that senior officers at Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency have had “some long-term interaction” with Kiyani and “was comfortable with him”. Interestingly, he had met secretary of state Condoleezza Rice last November.

Kiyani has been deeply involved in discussions on the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, particularly on the war on terrorism. During the first emergency meeting called by Musharraf to assess the terrorist attack and the US request for assistance on September 14, 2001, in a nuclear bunker near Islamabad, Kiyani was entrusted with the task of drafting a contingency plan.

Kiyani, all along, as subsequent events show, remained a ‘yes man’, refusing to dissent with Musharraf at any given point of time. He has followed Musharraf’s policies on the Taliban, Al Qaida, Balochistan and Kashmir. This is one of the reasons why Kiyani has managed to survive in the Pakistan army during the past eight years and that too in some key positions.

Kiyani has been active in politics for quite sometime. In October 1999, for instance, he was the general officer commanding (GOC) at Murree. The GOC acts more like a ‘Viceroy’ of Pak occupied Kashmir and is known to take an active interest in managing the political affairs of this federally administered area.

This is a significant clue to Kiyani’s political experience, quite contrary to the smokescreen being created that he was apolitical. Nothing could be further from the truth if once pieces together bits of facts available in the public domain.

He was the deputy military to former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and has been in touch with her even during her self-exile in London. Bhutto had picked Kiyani from four candidates, including Tariq Majeed, in May 1990. Kiyani subsequently served under Prime Ministers Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi and Nawaz Sharif. In fact, Sharif offered to transfer him to the civil service but Kiyani chose to remain with the army.

It was this exposure to politics and politicians that made Musharraf pick Kiyani to open negotiations with Bhutto. As DG, ISI, he was part of Musharraf’s team led by national security council secretary

Tariq Aziz negotiating with Benazir for a political deal with Musharraf. He was Musharraf’s only aide during the hush-hush meeting with Bhutto in Abu Dhabi on July 27.

As a major general, he was the DG military operations (January 2001 to September 2003) when India launched Operation Parakram, a mass mobilisation of troops, along the border to launch an attack in revenge for the terrorist attack on Parliament House on December 13, 2001. The dexterity and expertise with which he handled the Pakistani troop movements, from the western borders to eastern frontier, to counter the Indian mobilisation on the borders brought him closer to Musharraf.

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