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Home > News > Columnists > Wilson John

General Kiyani's appointment has US nod

November 30, 2007

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Lt General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani -- a Punjabi officer from the famed Baloch Regiment, till recently the vice chief of Army Staff and Inter Services Intelligence chief, pro-US, and an old India hand -- recently took over from General Pervez Musharraf [Images] as Pakistan Army's 14th chief of Army Staff.

The chain-smoking, reclusive general is the first director general of ISI to head the Pakistan Army.

Kiyani's appointment as the chief of Army Staff has Washington's nod. He is certainly not a part of Musharraf's inner coterie.

Kiyani's appointment could be seen as part of the US 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 US, including one at the US Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth.

He is known to the top brass in Pentagon, 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 General Kiyani and "was comfortable with him." Interestingly, he had met Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last November.

Kiyani has been deeply involved in the discussions on the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, particularly on the war on terrorism.

Kiyani's working relationship with the US top brass strengthened further during the period when he was the director general of Military Operations (January 2001-September 2003).

It was the time when the US launched its global war on terrorism following the September 11 attack.

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 and other generals were apprehensive about the fallout of the US bombing of Taliban and Al Qaeda [Images] hideouts in Afghanistan and felt that religious elements would retaliate in case Pakistan was used to launch the attacks.

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 Qaeda, 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 -- DGMO, DG ISI and Rawalpindi Corps Commander.

Kiyani has been active in politics for quite some time. In October 1999, for instance, he was the general officer commanding at Murree.

GOC Murree acts more like a 'Viceroy' of Pakistan-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 one pieces together bits of facts available in the public domain.

He was the deputy military secretary to former prime minister Benazir Bhutto [Images] and has been in touch with her even during her self-exile in London [Images].

Bhutto had picked Lt Col Kiyani from four candidates (including Tariq Majeed) in May 1990.

Kiyani subsequently served under prime ministers Ghulam [Images] 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 A-Team led by National Security Council secretary Tariq Aziz negotiating with Bhutto 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, 2007. It has been reported in the Pakistani media that Bhutto wanted a chief of Army Staff of her liking as part of the deal and had settled for Kiyani.

Kiyani's presence during the Abu Dhabi meeting indicated such a possibility. Bhutto has been opposed to Tariq Majeed. Her party had filed a corruption petition against him in the National Accountability Bureau.

His familiarity with other Punjab-based political parties -- Pakistan Muslim League-Q and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz -- cannot be discounted either.

He was involved in opening negotiations with Nawaz Sharif's brother Shahbaz Sharif in August 2007.

Kiyani along with Nadeem Taj (the present ISI chief) and Musharraf's Chief of Staff Lt General Hamid Javed had flown to London to work out a "grand reconciliation", reported The News, an English daily published by the Jang Group of Publications in Pakistan.

The ruling party, Pakistan Muslim League-Q chairman Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain has also been in touch with Kiyani.

According to The News (October 2, 2007), 'The Chaudhrys have been dealing with General Kiyani for quite some time and they are maintaining irritant-free working relations with him.'

It is very interesting to note that an officer, who is supposedly apolitical, chose to invite Pakistan Muslim League-Q leaders and other political leaders to his iftar party in Islamabad, just one day before President Musharraf submitted his nomination papers for the second presidential term.

Daily Times commented that the dinner 'is being seen as a major political gathering'.

Kiyani hails from one of the largest and most powerful clans from Gujar Khan in the Pothohar belt of Punjab, a traditional recruitment ground for men and officers even during the British times. Punjab accounts for about 60 per cent of the recruitments to the Pakistan Army.

Kiyani is considered to be a hardline, experienced general with an ear to the ground on India. 

He has been part of the inner coterie among the principal staff officers advising the president on Kashmir and the India-Pakistan peace process. He was with President Musharraf during his visit to Agra [Images] in July 2002.

As a major general, he was the DG Military Operations (January 2001-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, in New Delhi.

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.

It was a tough call to make, especially after Musharraf had committed his support to the US-led global war on terrorism, which meant assistance to the US operations in Afghanistan against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Kiyani was also instrumental in organising a 10-day war game exercise called Sabaat Kadam at National Defence College to assess Indian deployment, disposition, capabilities and intentions.

In September 2003, he was promoted as Lt General and appointed to head the most critical command, the Rawalpindi Corps (X).

As commander X Corps he made a breakthrough in penetrating terrorist cells, which had planned the assassination attempts on President Musharraf.

In his autobiography, Musharraf complemented Kiyani by pointing out that problems caused by inter-agency rivalries 'disappeared when I appointed Kiyani in charge of investigations.'

Kiyani's investigations resulted in a secret military tribunal convicting 11 men of planning and carrying out the attack.

Some of these men were from the Pakistan Air Force and at least one of them was a Special Service Group commando who had been part of Musharraf's security detail.

Kiyani was conferred the Hilal-i-Imtiaz award by President Musharraf for the investigations.
 
As DG ISI (October 2004-October 2007), Kiyani played an important role in unravelling the London terrorist plot in 2006.

It was the ISI tipoff that led the British and the US police to foil the plot. Kiyani, it is reported, worked in tandem with Western intelligence agencies to do the follow-up investigations.

As the spy chief, he was also deeply involved in keeping a tab on the growing presence of Al Qaeda and the Taliban elements in the tribal areas and the North West Frontier Province.

Kiyani is credited with the arrest of a top Al Qaeda operative Abu Faraj al-Libbi and hunting down Amjad Farooqui, one of the key suspects in the assassination attempts on President Musharraf.

On the flip side, it was during his tenure as the DG ISI that Waziristan and neighbouring areas witnessed increased Talibanisation.

Although the Pakistan government went in for a truce with the Taliban elements in the tribal areas in September 2006 (Miramshah Agreement), the influence of radical elements was seen in Islamabad when students, both men and women, of the Lal Masjid took to the streets, calling for imposition of Shariat law in Pakistan.

Kiyani as the DG ISI should have been aware of the developments taking place inside the seminary, which was situated close to the ISI headquarters and was often visited by middle-rung ISI officials for prayers.

The fact that the students, aided by terrorist groups like the Jaish-e-Mohammed, could amass weapons and explosives within the complex raises a serious question about Kiyani's tenure as the spy chief.

Kiyani's role in keeping the jihadi strategy in Kashmir (and India) is worth a probe.

According to Pakistan media reports, Kiyani as the DGMO and later as the DG ISI, only promoted this strategy, which was scripted by Musharraf when he was the DGMO.

The widely circulated Pakistani English daily The News headlined a detailed analysis of the army's Kashmir strategy, 'Army Believes Kashmir Freedom is Near', in its edition of May 30, 2002.

Relying on interviews with officials at the GHQ, the newspaper wrote that the perception within the top hierarchy was that 'an expected impetus to anti-military guerilla activities by freedom-fighters may turn the Indians' dream for a decisive war in Kashmir into a nightmare for the Indian military.'

As the ISI chief, Kiyani could be held responsible for the release of Harkat-ul Mujahideen chief Fazlur Rehman Khalil (December 2004) and Harkat-ul Jihad al Islami chief Qari Saifullah Akhtar (May 2007), two of the Afghan jihad veterans who have been instrumental in reorganising terrorist strategies and operations on behalf of the ISI and the army.

In September 2006, more than 2,600 suspected terrorists were released by Pakistan.

Musharraf could not have taken the decision without taking his corps commanders into confidence, particularly the ISI chief.

The freed terrorists included HuJI operational commander Sohail Akhtar (involved in the suicide attack in Karachi that killed 11 French engineers) and Fazal Karim (a suspect in the assassination of Daniel Pearl).

It is also reported that many of the junior ISI officials, retired in the purge carried out by Ehsan ul Haq after September 11, 2001, have returned to the fold as contractual employees to aid the Taliban.

These men operate mainly from the ISI office in Chitral (Northern Areas), which supports terrorists launching attacks on the US, and Afghan forces in Kunar and Nuristan.

Kiyani as the head of ISI was certainly aware of these developments and allowed such backdoor support to the Taliban as part of the overall Pakistan policy.

List of Pakistan's chiefs of Army Staff:

General Sir Frank Messervy (August 15, 1947 - February 10, 1948)
General Sir Douglas David Gracey (February 11, 1948 - January 16, 1951)
Field Marshal Ayub Khan (January 16, 1951 - October 26, 1958)
General Musa Khan (October 27, 1958 - June 17, 1966)
General Yahya Khan (June 18, 1966 � December 20, 1971)
General Gul Hassan (December 20, 1971 - March 3, 1972)
General Tikka Khan (March 3, 1972 - March 1, 1976)
General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (April 1, 1976 - August 17, 1988)
General Mirza Aslam Beg (August 17, 1988 - August 16, 1991)
General Asif Nawaz (August 16, 1991 - January 8, 1993)
General Wahid Kakar (January 8, 1993 - December 1, 1996)
General Jehangir Karamat (December 1, 1996 - October 6, 1998)
General Pervez Musharraf (October 7, 1998 - November 28, 2007)
General Ashfaz Parvez Kiyani (November 28, 2007- present)


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