General Kayani, the real man in power
If Pakistanis know that the GHQ wields real power, why don't we scrutinise the military as closely as politicians?
General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was recently included in the Forbes World’s Most Powerful People. Ranked at 29, General Kayani is Pakistan’s only representative on the list.
The authors of this list took account of four broad criteria.
First, Forbes looked at the number of people the individual had influence over. General Kayani’s decisions undoubtedly affect every Pakistani. As the guiding figure behind Pakistan’s defence and foreign policy, his decisions directly affect the conflict in Afghanistan and by extension, the nations who have a stake in Afghanistan’s future.
Second, the editors looked at whether “they have significant financial resources relative to their peers.” A large chunk of Pakistan’s budget is allocated for defence. Further resources are made available when demanded. For example: the allocation of an additional Rs110 billion to the military, at a time when development expenditure was trimmed. Further expenses incurred under the heads of military pensions that are not included in the defence budget. This is not to say that the military shouldn’t receive the resources that are required to defence the country. However, the people of Pakistan should be confident that funds allocated are used in a transparent manner. Relative to other actors in the country, our COAS holds sway over a massive chunk of our nations resources.
Third, Forbes looked at whether individuals could project power in multiple spheres. Not only is General Kayani the head of the military, he is also point man on foreign relations and acts as an arbitrator amongst various political actors in the country.
Finally, Forbes “insisted that they actively wield power.” The fact that General Kayani led the Pakistani delegation to Washington for the US-Pakistan strategic dialogue is just one recent example of “active wielding of power”. Officially, the Foreign Minister led the delegation. However, who do you think had the final say? The man who was ranked the 29th Most Powerful Person in the World, or an unranked cabinet member?
General Kayani’s inclusion in such a list would not surprise anyone in Pakistan. Abroad, foreign commentators unanimously agree that the General Kayani continues to wield immense power from behind the scenes.
It is quite surprising then that while we recognize that true power radiates from the GHQ, we set much higher standards and expectations on those who rule from Islamabad and the provincial capitals. This is not to suggest that the spotlight should shift from political to military inefficiency and corruption. God knows there are enough media outlets to intensify their scrutiny of every organ of the taxpayer and debt-funded Pakistani state.
That said, the media highlights the inefficiencies and corruption of our politicians, and quite rightly so. However, how is it that those who control the largest chunk of our nation’s resources are unaccountable? Why don’t we know how much General Kayani’s salary is? How many plots and agricultural property (if any?) he has been allocated? What perks does he or has he enjoyed? How much tax has he paid? What of all the core commanders and major generals who enjoy state-sanctioned positions of authority which allow them to allocate state resources?
Recently, General Kayani ordered the National Logistics Cell to stop “posing” as a defence organisation and to pay all taxes and dues. Now that the precedent has been set, one can only hope that the same sentiment is extended to the military itself and its commercial activities.
Not only does the General need to ensure greater personal accountability, he also needs to ensure greater accountability for the military and its commercial ventures. The military, whether in power or during civilian rule claims to be pro-democracy. Whenever it has taken over, it has done so to bring in “true democracy”. However, governments, both civil and military, have in the past skipped the need to be transparent and accountable.
It is clear to all, both within and beyond Pakistan’s borders, that General Kayani is a very powerful actor. His decisions affect many millions of souls and his power extends beyond the realm of his official responsibilities as Chief of Army Staff.
If we recognize his power and influence, then he must recognize the need to be fully accountable and transparent. If not, then I am afraid that he is complicit in the corruption and poor governance that is proliferating throughout the country.
That would be unbecoming for the COAS of the Pakistan Army and the 29th most powerful person in the world.