Thursday, November 29, 2007

Passing the baton

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]



Arshad, Islamabad said...

Musharraf has served Pakistan well and seen us through some tough times. He revived our economy and restored our respect in the global community of nations. May God bless him, and I pray that he sees us through to a prosporous future as President. He is our sole hope as a nation and one day he will be remembered as a great father of the nation!

Arshad, Islamabad

kamran malik, LONDON, United Kingdom said...

I think he is great politician I have ever seen in the history of pakistan after quaid i azam & mr. bhutto, he know exactly what he is doing.

kamran malik, LONDON, United Kingdom

juan said...

do not forget he wasa dictator

Jonathan Mercer, London said...

Before condemning Musharraf, best recall the insults and incompetence perpetrated by the previous civilian rulers in Pakistan

Jonathan Mercer, London

Manak, Mumbai said...

Mushararf has lived upto his word by far
freed the lawyers
gave up his military post
announced election dates

I think there is a reason to trust him.

Muntazir said...

Everyone has there own opinion and in my opinion he was the best army chief ever. during his time as army chief he has taken some really bold steps which may or may not have been liked by all but he was a top commander

Fred, MA said...

Now what? corrupt politicians are back...pity how honest people can never make it in that part of the world.

Rifat said...

A brave forward looking man. I would pick him any day, and as an military leader, over the corrupt and dishonest so called democratically elected Banzir and Sharif

Rifat, Karachi

Anonymous said...

Most people seem to be glad that he's taken the uniform off and want him to give up his presidential post as well. My questions to these pundits is - who do you think is going to fill the void? the muppets who brought Pakistan to the brink of bankruptcy - moral and financial, in the '90? He's no angel but he's done a great deal of good in the 8 yrs he's been there, unlike his power & money hungry predessors who the west is so keen to see reinstalled.


Hardik Shah, London said...

I am not sure if the resignation would make any difference. The real issue is not Musharraf or Kiyani - the real issue is the important and intereference of the Pakisani Army in running of the country. Presidents/PMs came and went, but they were all either Armymen, or were remotely controlled by the army.
If Pakistan has to really preserve its democrary, the army needs to focus on their job, and not that of a govt. Without that, it is not unlikely that the next govt will be overthrown by army.

Hardik Shah, London

Timothy said...

I dont think its a good move what President Musharraf has done for Pakistan in these 8 years is quite laudable.He has made Pakistan strong both economically and militarily. No Person can be trusted even if he's President Musharraf's aide. As Pakistan Military has always been the ruling power despite democratic rule. This can haunt President Musharraf in his next 5 years which is not good for Pakistan. The way he has ruled pakistan and had curbed extremism and other terrorism is extraordinary