Good luck, General Kayani

Raza Rumi July 24, 2010

In a hurried non-speech, the prime minister has confirmed that the incumbent army chief will stay on for three years. Unprecedented as the decision might be, it is perhaps the best option under the current circumstances. Pakistan is battling against domestic and external terrorism. Given how the army works, it is clear that the military establishment wants a continuation of national security policy.

Lack of policy continuity has been the hallmark of Pakistan’s governance.  At least with General Kayani’s extension, the military operations in the northwest and approach to the Afghanistan imbroglio will also remain unchanged. This is good for Pakistan for three reasons.

First, Pakistan desperately needs uninterrupted operations to counter militancy. This is no longer a ‘foreign war’ but very much our own. Second, past efforts to sensitise the west on Pakistan’s concerns in Afghanistan should not be squandered. Finally, General Kayani’s tightrope walk at home has worked well and the democratic system has not been truncated despite the frantic calls of several media-persons. One TV anchor before he left a popular channel, had appealed to Takht-e-Rawalpindi to intervene to save the country.

The troubled civil-military equation is not going to change overnight. Realism demands that we have to deal with the army’s ubiquitous role, at least in the medium term. Civilian supremacy is not guaranteed through the merely powers of appointing army chiefs. This erroneous view needs to be challenged. Parliament will only be supreme when it governs and with transparency and delivers the goods.  We also need to recognise that the dominance of the unelected institutions stunts the performance of the elected governments. How will this change? Not by manipulating service contracts but through continuation of the democratic system.

General Kayani so far has not been a party to any effort to destabilise the system. If anything, his public image is that of a moderate, professional and a no-nonsense soldier, not interested in political gerrymandering. For this very reason, the PPP government has made a calculated gamble. We are a land of constant melodrama, but instability is not written on the wall, at least for now.

The army’s interests require a stable economy and functional civilian governance. As a national institution, it should enable Pakistan’s transformation into a more manageable polity. More importantly, it ought to be aware of its limitations in governing this complex, and crumbling country. All indications so far suggest that the current military leadership is cognisant of such realities.

General Kayani has three hectic years ahead. Stabilising Pakistan’s northwest and getting Pakistan on the Afghanistan-table are already under way. However, its Balochistan and India strategies require creative reassessment; and the dated doctrines of ‘strategic depth’ need reconfiguration. Instead of civil-military power struggles, we need a broad consensus and workable formulae for effective cooperation to cleanse Pakistan’s proverbial stables.

For this reason, we wish General Kayani all the luck.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2010.

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omer | 10 years ago | Reply I think by giving Gen Kiyani the extentsion we have made him a dangerous person. No doubt that he is an outstanding officer but this shows that our army is not capable of producing such caliber generals that in case something happens to General we don't have any one to reply him? This will undermine the senior officers in Army as Musharaff was the COAS for 11 years and then Kiyani for 6 years. Secondly I believe that Gen Kiyani knows everything that happens in Pakistan in last 6-8 years. He is a constant factor as all other people involved are coming and going. Musharaff departure, Benezir Death, Elections, ISI playing double game in Afghanistan and the list goes on. Kiyani was involved in everything that happened in recent history of Pakistan. Lets hope and pray that General plays his cards well and is not thinking about taking over the government as we need continuity of system. No matter how bad the civilian government is, how weak it is we need continuation so that the system remains there and a day will come when this system will itself give us great leaders ... I still have hope in this country and I see a great future ahead. Pakistan Zindabad !!!
Sharjeel Jawaid | 10 years ago | Reply Dear General Kayani, It was President Jimmy Carter who proposed the idea of a single term for the office of the President of the US; and also increasing its duration from four to six years. He was of the view that the challenges facing the high office should not be comprised when the sitting president starts planning his next election campaign after three years of taking over his office. Since President Carter left the public office to work for the world in general, his stature has increased with every passing day. He happens to be one of the most respected global statesmen of the present era. The American establishment eased him out. Their patience ran out, particularly when his idea of human rights started encompassing the Palestinian people. He earned remarks like, the peanut farmer from Plains GA. [read Paindoo to understand the term in the local dialect.] No one is indispensible. General Musharraf also forgot this basic fact. Some senior Pakistani Generals who have other wise faded in history carry great respect not only in Pakistan but also abroad. Among them, I can recall, Sahebzada Yaqub Ali Khan, Abdul Waheed Kakar and Jehangir Karamat. They were principal centered and very much realized that the pomp and perks of the rank are mortal. The Quad e Azam of US of A the Great, George Washington also did not accept a third term in office. Dear General, you should have declined the extension. According to a sage from ancient Greece; The heads of government do not realize that their salary is paid by history and not the treasury! Sincerely / Sharjeel Jawaid
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