Good luck, General Kayani

Published: July 24, 2010
The writer is a policy analyst and consulting editor, The Friday Times

The writer is a policy analyst and consulting editor, The Friday Times

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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Reader Comments (16)

  • Raza Raja
    Jul 25, 2010 - 5:15PM

    “Parliament will only be supreme when it governs and with transparency and delivers the goods.”

    I think this sentence says volumes. One thing which all, including “patriotic” conservatives and “enlightened” liberals, need to understand that under the current circumstances asking army to take over (conservative opinion) and expecting army to be totally subservient to current breed of politicians (liberal opinion), is asking for a disaster.

    Civilian rule has to overcomne army but only if they are able to provide good governance. In the longer run civilians, since they are accountable are a much better bet. However right now we are still in a transitional phase and therefore every step needs to be taken carefully. Recommend

  • Jul 25, 2010 - 5:57PM

    Thanks Raza: I agree with you. The transition is still not over!Recommend

  • Sher A. Khan
    Jul 25, 2010 - 7:06PM

    Today’s opinion articles are all relevant. Mr. Raza Raja makes a good comment regarding governance as a way forward for Parliament to be more effective. Instead of focusing on legislation, the ruling party members need to manage ministries and bureaucrats more effectively to show the nation that they can manage the institutions, and are in charge. Gen. Kayani’s extension is a sign of the military weakening as an institution, as it is now personality dependent. PPP being the ruling party should be more sophisticated in explaining the extension. Their failure in doing so has fed to the rumor industry that further illustrates that the government is not in charge. The way to mitigate is by transparently moving forward with political initiatives that build the military’s success against terror in the past year. As an example, making sure the public services are quickly restored, and finding novel ways to extend the constitution to the tribal areas, and expiring the alien laws currently applied to FATA. The military agencies need to work with the law enforcement agencies and prosecute the violent acts that send people back to the TTP like groups. They should not be given space any more so than people who are law abiding and victimized by the on going war. Likewise, in Punjab, people responsible for the security need to punished, for not training their corps for the challenging task. What is to show for the funds invested in the security of the people? Where is the writ of the state? Recommend

  • Haider Raza
    Jul 25, 2010 - 9:57PM

    Kayani’s extension is going have its own set of problems starting with failures in both leadership and policy. The Land of the Indus is both at war and divided. At a very high level, it is a division and war between the old and the new, the dis functional colonial Pakistan and a very possible future 21 century truly democratic and progressive Indus. Kayani’s extension at best will provide managing a crisis but certainly not the much needed fearless visionary political leadership. Hence in the mean time more monsters and miseries will come out of the woodwork for Pakistan. After all who are we kidding, the only power of political change in Pakistan rests with the Army chief and not the elected. This is a fact that we must remember. So if today we have avoided martial law, does it mean that the political power of military has been eliminated? Raza, my suggestion is that you should use your strength as an analyst and patriotism to spearhead a vanguard for progressive Pakistan. It is those like yourself who will have to step up to the plate, because Kayani, Gilani, ghazi or qazi have all found their calling in careers and not service to the people! Which is where the solution lies and not in a pseudo national security policy.Recommend

  • Jul 25, 2010 - 10:23PM

    I agree that extension of Kayani will offer continuation of policies especially when we are in the midst of a war against militancy, yet at the same time it will also make sure that reconfiguration of ‘India Centric’ policy and ‘Strategic depth’ policy will be delayed. But then again the contours of these policies are defined by institutions (establishment in this case) and not by personnels. Recommend

  • Jul 25, 2010 - 10:48PM

    Zardari and Kiyani have not always seen eye to eye in the past so it is indeed a well thought out gamble by the PPP. In the trade-off between strengthening the executive or strengthening Kiyani, the PPP has won. The PPP will get mileage out of this decision as it will ensure that the government completes it term; a feather in the cap for Zardari.

    But I feel there has to be some caution in relying on a personality and not on the institution, just because Kiyani has not tried to disrupt the government due to Zardari coming into the the Presidency and changing the nature of the civil-military relationship over the last few years. Recommend

  • Jul 25, 2010 - 11:10PM

    I absolutely disagree with you.

    If anything, his public image is that
    of a moderate, professional and a
    no-nonsense soldier, not interested in
    political gerrymandering

    This is absolutely false. Have you forgotten who was the one who struck the deal with Benazir on Musharraf’s part? Yes sie it was Mr. Kayani. Kayani might be the Chief of Army Staff but that does not give him, or anybody else, the right to stop the progressive system present with in the army.

    Till when will we depend on “single personalities” rather than the institutions that make those personalities? This article emancipates what i am trying to say:

    We need to stop depending on individuals as the dependence on individuals is the biggest hurdle to democracy.Recommend

  • Jul 25, 2010 - 11:12PM

    And by the by, Mr Husham Khan the extension of Gen Kayani will ensure the expedition of our India-centric policies. It is no hidden secret that the Army is once again clamoring within the circles of establishment to “check India” rather than the murderous zealots roaming free in North Waziristan.Recommend

  • faiz shah
    Jul 25, 2010 - 11:23PM

    Interesting to see Rumi Sb side with what amounts to a subversion of merit that a 3-year tenure is designed to guarantee. What this says is that the entire general staff of the world’s 6th largest military is incapable of fielding a suitable enough candidate to take over a position that comes with an end-date. Hardly the kind of stuff that boosts confidence in a nuclear-armed outfit. If such be the case, “good luck” Pakistan. Recommend

  • Waqas ul Hasan
    Jul 26, 2010 - 2:20AM

    V nice article Raza as always. Mr. Kiyani’s role in post-Musharaf era has undoubtedly been laudable, however having said that, one may argue that he was close associate of Musharaf, and hence by definition, would have little respect for politicians and democratic institutions. Musharaf wouldn’t have picked Mr. Kiyani for his love of democracy but for his like-mindedness. Unless Mr. Kiyani is a completely changed man, he couldn’t try his political skills because circumstances didn’t allow him to think beyond military operation. If he were serious about strengthening institutions (army included) in Pakistan, he should have himself helped Government to identify his successor. It is difficult to believe that none in top brass is capable to smoothly step into his shoes. Not an ideal precedent set by the PM and one hopes that it doesn’t haunt him and the people of Pakistan in years to come.Recommend

  • Jul 26, 2010 - 2:34AM

    Many thanks for the comments here – I have received a lot of (mixed) feedback on this position. I think this is not an ordinary, run-of-mill situation. Pakistan is at war and is imploding. In these circumstances, we want a continuation of Army’s resolve to fight militancy and insurgency. True, in 1980s the jihad industry came into being due to our Afghan involvement and with active state support. It is now getting out of hand – what can be more serious than the attack on GHQ last year. Public memory as they say is short.
    If the Army leadership is now working to rectify three decades of mess, let’s support them. This is not about individuals (though all estimates about individuals have proved wrong – Zia, Musharraf and list goes on). This is about policy and leadership of Pakistan’s central institution.
    Making the best of a difficult situation, I guess..Recommend

  • The Contrarian
    Jul 26, 2010 - 5:44AM

    sycophancy at its best!Recommend

  • Riaz Ahmed
    Jul 26, 2010 - 8:30AM

    Raza said it well and I would just say that a good politician once said a good politics is local and about fixing roads and gutters.
    I hope in Pakistan our politicians and our future masters (offspring of the current bosses) learn this basic lesson.Recommend

  • talha
    Jul 26, 2010 - 10:32AM

    The article is supporting nepotism and favoritism as usual and it gives the impression that being a nation we are still living in a paradise without knowing our path. Recommend

  • Sharjeel Jawaid
    Jul 26, 2010 - 1:53PM

    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 JawaidRecommend

  • omer
    Aug 11, 2010 - 6:36PM

    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 !!!Recommend

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