M A I N   N E W S

Special to the tribune
Kayani has‘overstayed’ his welcome
Shyam Bhatia in London

The author of a forthcoming book on the Pakistan army says Gen Ashfaq Kayani has damaged his standing by taking an extension and staying on in his job for another three years. “His standing in the army has been damaged quite badly because when Kayani became chief, he undertook to look after the institution”, says British writer Carey Schofield.

When he became army chief “his unique selling point was that he was going to do things correctly. The minute he took an extension, that was blown because you should serve, in the army’s view, your two or three years and go, serve your time and rotate, otherwise you’re damaging the institution, making it appear that it depends on one individual.

“Its bad for an institution when you have a chief who’s overstayed his welcome. It means he’s much older than the corps commanders. They’re no longer the people that he was at military academy with and who would have served under him at some stage, and it means the collegiality is destroyed.”

Cambridge graduate Carey Schofield is the author of “Inside the Pakistan army, A woman’s experience of the front line on the war on terror”. She spent several years researching the book and is on first name terms with most of the army top brass, both current and retired.

Her work being published early next month demands attention because of its authority, mastery of detail and self-evident fluency.

She became interested in the idea of her book soon after 9/11 when it became clear that Pakistan would be “almost the most important place on earth”, that there was going to be war in Afghanistan and there was a concurrent danger of Pakistan becoming even more unstable.

Her bleak assessment of Kayani’s credibility invokes comparisons with the criticism that was leveled at his immediate predecessor, Gen Pervez Musharraf, who served for nine years as both army chief and President of Pakistan until he was forced to resign in 2008.

Two years before his departure, many Pakistani civilians had started to publicly express their disenchantment with a President who, they argued, had overstayed his welcome. Similar sentiments were expressed within the ranks of the army where Musharraf’s decision to stay on in power was seen as blocking the chances of promotion for other officers.

One of the most pointed criticisms of Musharraf was that he allowed the army to stray into areas that had previously been the responsibility of civilian administrators. One popular, if apocryphal, refrain was that even all powerful district commissioners had been so enfeebled by presidential diktat that they had to take their day-to-day orders from comparatively junior army majors.

No such accusation has been directed at Kayani who, Schofield points out, promised from the start to focus entirely on the army by improving pay, accommodation and other living conditions for all ranks.

She acknowledges his recent challenging encounters with top Corps commanders, particularly after the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. But she disputes the thesis that Kayani is less popular because of his perceived closeness to Washington going back to the time when he was head of the ISI. “I have met him and no, he is not a creature of the US”, responds Schofield.

She adds, “Everyone in Pakistan is superstitious about American power, so army and civilians alike believe that if the Americans are behind you, you’ll succeed. That’s part of a general obsession. So I don’t think its fair to say that Kayani depends on the Americans.”

Despite her reservations about Kayani’s standing among his fellow soldiers, Schofield has both affection and regard for the Pakistan army. Her book is peppered with references to individual soldiers she got to know during the course of her research. They include Major-Gen Faisal Alavi, the former commander of Special Forces, who was dismissed by Musharraf and subsequently murdered by unknown assailants close to his home in November 2008.





HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Letters | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | E-mail |