Islamabad : Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani got the nod to succeed Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf as the country’s army chief as he was acceptable to both former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and the US, a media report Wednesday said.
The News even suggested that Kiyani’s anointment Tuesday was in no small measure due to Bhutto.
Kiyani, who initially will be the army vice chief, has been the key interlocutor in talks between the Pakistani government and the former prime minister to pave the way for Bhutto’s return home from exile and share power in the new dispensation that will emerge after the Oct 6 election when Musharraf runs for a second term.
Under the Pakistani system, the army vice chief automatically succeeds a retiring chief. Musharraf is expected to shed his uniform by Nov 15.
Kiyani “enjoys the confidence of Benazir Bhutto, whom he served as deputy military secretary during her first term as prime minister”, The News said.
“In her deal-dialogue with Musharraf, Benazir wanted her ‘consented’ future chief of army staff once Musharraf doffed his uniform,” the newspaper added.
“Kiyani had never been into the ‘deal’ business in the past but it now appears that his presence in Abu Dhabi (for the talks with Bhutto) seemed relevant to his selection as the army chief,” the report said.
“Interestingly,” The News said, Kiyani is also in the “good books” of Washington, “which has always been interested in the top military appointment in Pakistan”.
“Kiyani has all the pluses of today, which would become a great challenge for him in the days to come. Generally reputed as a competent, sharp and mature professional, who has always been respected in the military circles, Kiyani hit the first controversy of his career when he got involved in the deal-dialogue with Benazir,” The News said.
Kiyani meets all the three conditions — seniority, competence and loyalty — that are generally considered for promotion of officers to posts of army vice chief and chief, the newspaper maintained.
“Competence is always important but in the present situation, it is all the more vital because of the serious challenges that General Kiyani has to confront,” it added.
Foremost among these is restoring the image of the army and redeeming its respect among the civilians.
“He will have to show and prove to the people that he is a true professional,” the newspaper said.
The second and perhaps even more crucial challenge would be US pressure, its war on terror and the ongoing operations in the tribal areas of the north.
“Through his competence and professionalism, Kiyani would be required to keep a balance between the US pressure and the local sensitivities.
“Those who know Kiyani’s relations with General Musharraf say that he has been one of his top advisors both on military and strategic matters. Only time would tell if he would revise the present military strategy vis-à-vis the US-led war on terror and the ongoing military deployment in the tribal areas.
“He will really have to assert himself to keep a balance between the international challenges and the local demands,” The News noted.