The transition has happened, finally. Gen Pervez Musharraf abdicated his military post after serving the army for 46 prolix years. For a brief while, as he handed over the baton [called command stick; it is more like a symbolic scepter] of army chief to his mate and chosen successor Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, he appeared to be choking but held his nerve, like a solider. Musharraf, a highly decorated army Gen, will be sworn in as the civilian President of Pakistan later today. His legacy, I reckon, will remain that of a competent commander, who led from the front, a PR extraordinaire, someone who wooed the media with his effortlessness, wrote a compelling book while in office and more importantly safe-guarded Pakistan’s interests after the 9/11 US blitzkrieg. He, however, miserably flunked to understand the cesspool of domestic politics in Pakistan and did nothing to allow a new political class to emerge. At some point Musharraf perhaps overstepped his authority but still fared better than most of the previous military rulers.
Even if Mush can no more count on the famed army allegiance but like a smart lad he has played it safe. He has appointed his most trusted men at the top. The ISI boss -- Gen Nadeem Taj -- is a camp Mush man [was his military secretary and accompanied Mush on that eventful flight from Colombo], so is the chief of military intelligence (MI). Gen Tariq Majid, Chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, another key guy remains faithful. The corps commanders, who form the backbone of Pak army and constitute its real strength, were seen cheering for Musharraf, as he bade a final aideu to his 'beloved' army, which remained loyal to him till the end. As long as the army is seen to be backing their old boss -- and new Prez -- Musharraf has no worries.
And despite his resignation from the army, Musharraf [now Sadar-Sahib] will continue to keep his current military staff and his security too will be responsibility of the army. The present constitution of Pakistan gives the president reserve powers, subject to a Supreme Court approval or veto [likely to be approved in a retooled SC] to dissolve the National Assembly of Pakistan and trigger new elections. In effect he would have the powers to dismiss the elected PM. The president also chairs the National Security Council and appoints the heads of the Army, Navy and Air Force. Mush, I reckon, is going to stay both relevant and major league.
In hindsight, Musharraf was quite a charmer. I liked his sartorial ways. Always elegantly turned out, thinking out of the box, running his fingers in the hair, well-read and witty, Mush was a great relief from our dour politicians. Usually politicians in the sub-continent are colorless, bromidic kinds. As the military Prez, he would go to the US on his book tour and sweep his TV hosts off their feet. On his India visits, the media would go euphoric trailing his every move. A liberal guy, who kept pet puppies at home, Mush made enemies with conservatives in Pakistan. The West, aware of the Pan-Islamic wave never left him off-hook. Mush’s outstanding help in fighting the war on terror is however not lost to many in the White House.
Kiyani, as the new army chief, is not just a military commander; he is responsible for the institutional reputation and extensive financial interests of the country's top officers, who consider themselves a class apart. Pakistan’s army top echelons – along with their top political class – come from an elite social stratum. [Rest of the country – 85% and spill over – remain the toiling masses] Since Kiyani 55, is younger than Musharraf, he is expected to have a greater connect with his officers. A Kashmiri by ancestry, Gen Kiyani is a Musharraf loyalist, Punjabi by birth, stammerer, chain smoker, moderate, former Spy boss, palsy but tough. A professional, strict guy, he has an attitude that may best be described as: listen [rather than Mush’s Mantra: Talk], army-back-to-barracks [rather than meddle in petty politics]. However, expect a tougher line against ultraists, since Kiyani will try his best to establish the supremacy of the army and streamline its combat efficiency. In doing so, the US trained Gen may not think twice to smoke the bad guys out with surgical precision.
Next Blog: The Cesspool[Dec 2008]