Monday, March 16, 2009



Extracts from my article dated November 28,2007, titled "Musharraf Minus the Uniform" available at

Will Kiyani be able to deliver if not bin Laden and Zawahiri at least others such as Mulla Mohammad Omar, the Amir of the Neo Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, who is the de facto ruler of South Waziristan, and Maulana FM Radio Fazlullah,the de facto ruler of the Swat Valley?

Kiyani comes to office as the COAS (Chief of the Army Staff) with impeccable credentials. He has the distinction of being the first Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to be appointed as the COAS since Pakistan became independent in 1947.Ehsanul Haq was also the DG, ISI, before he became the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee. Kiyani is the son of a non-commissioned officer (NCO) of the Army. His humble background as the son of an NCO has endeared him to the junior ranks of the Army. At a time, when there are signs of some demoralisation in the junior ranks fighting against Al Qaeda and other jihadi organisations in the Pashtun belt, high hopes will be placed on him for reversing the process of demoralisation.

Kiyani is also a non-controversial officer, who had in the past not come to notice for any dubious association with the Taliban or Al Qaeda or any of Pakistan's fundamentalist organisations. He was liked by the political leaders, who were attracted by his unassuming nature and humble demeanour. A man of few words, he is quite a contrast to Musharraf, a braggart. His reputation as an apolitical officer went up during the recent controversy over Musharraf's suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhury of the Pakistan Supreme Court. Knowledgeable sources said that at the meeting held at Musharraf's office in March, 2007, at which the decision to suspend him was taken, Kiyani was the only person, who kept quiet and did not utter a word either in support of Musharraf's decision or in criticism of the Chief Justice. It was also reported that he kept the ISI out of this unsavoury controversy and that it was the Directorate-General of Military Intelligence and the Intelligence Bureau, which played the leading role in the campaign to denigrate the former Chief Justice, which ultimately boomeranged on Musharraf.

Kiyani, who joined the Pakistan Army in 1970, started his career in the Baloch Regiment as an infantryman. He did not come to public notice till Mrs. Benazir Bhutto, during her first tenure as the Prime Minister (1988-90), chose him as her Deputy Military Secretary. The two have since maintained their personal friendship despite the ups and downs in her political career.

Kiyani is believed to have a wide network of contacts in the US Armed Forces, but he really attracted the attention of the US' political and military leadership at the time of the Indo-Pakistan military confrontation in 2002 after the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001. He was the Director-General, Military Operations (DGMO), at that time and the US was reportedly impressed by the cool manner in which he handled the crisis.

In September 2003, he was appointed the Corps Commander of the X Corps at Rawalpindi. It was the X Corps that had launched the coup of October 1999 which brought Musharraf to power. No military coup in Pakistan could be successful without the X Corps being in the forefront of the coup. All military chiefs chose their most trusted officer to head it. The fact that Musharraf chose him for this key post spoke of his confidence in him as a trustworthy officer, who would do his bidding.

As Corps Commander, Musharraf made him responsible for co-ordinating the investigation into the two attempts to assassinate him in Rawalpindi in December, 2003. Apart from identifying some of the jihadi terrorists responsible for the attempts, Kiyani also managed to establish the involvement of some junior officers of the Army and the Air Force in the attempts and had them arrested.

In October next year, he was appointed the DG of the ISI and once again impressed the US by his success in having Abu Faraj al-Libbi, an al Al Qaeda operative allegedly involved in the attempts to assassinate Musharraf, arrested in the tribal belt. He was immediately handed over to the US without properly interrogating him in connection with the attempts to kill Musharraf. Many Pakistani sources, however, have not accepted the claim of the ISI and that of the US that Abu Faraj was the No.3 of Al Qaeda and had masterminded the attempts to kill Musharraf. Subsequent evidence has not proved their claims.

Even though Kiyani was projected as a highly successful DG of the ISI, facts speak otherwise. It was during his tenure as the DG of the ISI that the Neo Taliban staged a come-back with a bang, the Pakistan Army practically lost control over the Pashtun belt and Al Qaeda established its sanctuaries in Pakistani territory.

The US has strongly backed his elevation as the COAS because of his known loyalty to Musharraf, his friendship with Benazir Bhutto and its hopes that he would improve the morale of the Army and vigorously pursue Al Qaeda & co. Its hopes in him may ultimately be belied just as its hopes in Musharraf were. The US has never been a good judge of Pakistanis and particularly of Pakistani Army officers. Will it be different this time? Let us wait and see.

Since he took over as the Vice-Chief of the Army Staff on October 8, 2007, Kiyani has been co-ordinating the military operations to re-establish the writ of the Government over the Swat Valley. He has not been very successful so far. The tribals of the Swat Valley, ably led by Maulana Fazlullah and backed by Al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Neo Taliban and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) have been putting up a stiff fight against the Pakistani Army, despite its use of helicopter gunships and heavy artillery. Kiyani's policy of over-relying on helicopter gunships and heavy artillery and avoiding ground confrontations has already come in for criticism in Pakistani military circles. Faced with this criticism, he has only now sent his troops to engage the terrorists in ground confrontations. Kiyani has promised that he would eject the terrorists from the Swat Valley before the elections and re-establish the writ of the state. If he does not succeed, his reputation as the COAS could take a beating.

As the dramatis personae in Islamabad play out the drama, there is a man up there in the tribal north waiting and watching, hoping that Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal would ultimately fall into his hands. His name is Osama bin Laden. He wears no hats and is not part of the triumvirate, but his threatening shadow will continue to hover over Pakistan till Al Qaeda is defeated and neutralised. That is not for tomorrow.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail:

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