Tag Archives: Ashfaq Pervez Kayani

The dawning of a new era?


This month has seen significant developments in the hope for peace and stability in South Asia. President Zardari traveled to Delhi for one-on-one talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Both sides reported that the meeting went very well, and Prime Minister Singh has accepted an invitation from the Pakistani president to visit Pakistan soon.

The bilateral meeting preceded an unrelated trade fair in New Delhi where Pakistani businesses showed off their products to Indian buyers and investors, and India opening up to foreign investment from Pakistan “to deepen our economic engagement.”

But it isn’t just economic ties that have improved recently. President Zardari’s trip almost didn’t happen after an avalanche buried over 100 Pakistani soldiers stationed on the remote Siachen glacier a few days prior.

The tragedy at Siachen served as a stark reminder of the decades-long military standoff that has dominated security concerns in the region, diverting vast resources to defense budgets in both Pakistan and India. From Delhi, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Tweeted, “It is such a shame tht 2 countries w/ such large segments of our population live in desperate poverty must spend so much on weapons” – a sentiment soon echoed by Pakistan’s military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

“Peaceful coexistence between the two neighbours is very important so that everybody can concentrate on the well-being of the people,” he told reporters…“We in the army understand very well that there should be a very good balance between defence and development. You cannot be spending on defence alone and forgetting about development,” he said.

“Ultimately the security of a country is not only that you secure boundaries and borders but it is when people that live in the country feel happy, their needs are being met. Only in that case will a country be truly safe.” He said national security should be a comprehensive concept.

In a further sign of progress, India’s Defense Minister, M.M. Pallam Raju, welcomed Gen. Kayani’s remarks.

With general elections expected in Pakistan next year and the year after in India, either government could change hands. Fortunately, the political environment appears to have changed to such an extent that even President Zardari’s biggest rival, Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) President Nawaz Sharif praised Zardari’s visit to Delhi and encouraged further efforts to improve bilateral relations.

Looking back over the past four years of democratic rule, Pakistanis are asking themselves what democracy has delivered. With the economy and internal security situation suffering from the effects of terrorism, it is a complicated question for many. A breakthrough on resolving longstanding differences with India, however, could lay the foundation for a new era of peace and prosperity in the region. That’s a success many long believed unachievable.

Trouble Brewing in Pakistan

Pakistan's President Asif Zardari with the Gen. Kayani
Pakistan’s political class is a buzz over rumors that the country’s military and intelligence agency are working behind the scenes to alter the makeup of Pakistan’s government. All of this comes following a closed door meeting on Monday between Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, and President Asif Zardari in which the nation’s military chief allegedly demanded the removal of some civilian officials.

Newsweek Pakistan reported on Twitter early this morning that a “source claims Army has asked President Zardari to sack three officials”, and that “Army also pressing Islamabad to appoint a National Security Adviser” – no doubt they have a recommendation readily at hand.

One of the officials Pakistan’s military is trying to push out appears to be Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani. On his political talk show, Aapas Ki Baat, Pakistani journalist Najam Sethi reported that Pakistan’s Army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) – long suspicious of the outspoken ambassador – no longer wishes to have Husain Haqqani remain at his post.

Husain Haqqani is a controversial figure in Pakistan. He has long issued warnings about the rise of extremism and intolerance in Pakistan, including in the nation’s military and intelligence agencies, and he has openly called for a change in the nation’s national security paradigm.

Some in Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies may see this as a threat to a security strategy in the region that relies on militant groups like the Haqqani network to “[shape] an Afghanistan that is more favourable to Pakistan,” and defend against a perceived threat from India. Right wing commentators for years have called on the ISI to “put [Husain Haqqani] under surveillance if not on a lamp-post,” while others have posted today that the “Time for ruthless accountability of those who’ve betrayed our nation and people nears.”

Today’s issue of The Nation, a right-wing English-language daily, carries a front page headline, “Husain Haqqani in hot waters.” Pakistan’s mainstream media reports that the Ambassador has been summoned to Islamabad to brief the government on recent developments in US-Pakistan relations, but some worry that a trap is being set and that the Ambassador could be used as a reminder to other civilian officials not to stray too far from the establishment line.

Reports that Pakistan’s military and ISI are once again interfering in domestic politics are deeply troubling for Pakistan’s fragile democracy. That the civilian officials being targeted by the ISI appear to be those speaking openly against extremism makes the reports even more dire.

US Should Focus on Pakistan’s Civilian Leadership

Asif Zardari meeting with Barack Obama

This week’s visit to Pakistan by Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen and the resulting public statements about cooperation in the fight against militant groups along Pakistan’s Western border has once again highlighted the extent to which US-Pakistan relations continue to focus on military-to-military dialogue. While close military cooperation against extremist groups requires military-to-military dialogue, the US must be careful not to weaken the authority of Pakistan’s civilian government by ignoring Pakistan’s civilian leadership.

An essay by Aqil Shah in the May/June 2011 issue of Foreign Affairs, “Getting the Military Out of Pakistani Politics” makes a strong case that the US should make a concerted effort to further shift its negotiations with Pakistan from a military-to-military model to one that focuses on strengthening the authority of the civilian government.

Pakistan is unlikely to collapse, but the imbalance of power between its civilian and military branches needs to be addressed if it is to become a normal modern state that is capable of effectively governing its territory. For its part, the United States must resist using the generals as shortcuts to stability, demonstrate patience with Pakistan’s civilian authorities, and help them consolidate their hold on power.

Where too many analysts express frustration with a perceived slow pace of reforms being implemented Pakistan’s civilian government, Aqil Shah prescribes patience.

If the “third wave” of democratization in the 1970s and 1980s had any lesson, it is that democracy does not necessarily require natural-born democrats or a mythically selfless political leadership. In fact, a strong democratic system can mitigate the baser instincts of politicians. If anything, the experience of countries such as Chile, the Philippines, South Korea, and Thailand in the last few decades shows that the strength and quality of democracy may be linked to the stability of the party system. This is good news for Pakistan.

The author even takes the counterintuitive, but plausible position that the family dominance of Pakistan’s major political parties may actually be a positive.

It is true that Pakistan’s civilian politics is dominated by a few families, namely the Bhuttos, who control the PPP, and the Sharifs, who control the PML-N. In a perverse way, however, the hold of the Bhuttos and the Sharifs on their parties may be one of the main reasons that these parties have survived the military’s divide-and-rule repression and may consolidate democracy in the future.

While political parties should aspire to increased internal democratization, US analysts should consider the role powerful families have played in strengthening our own party system. Pakistan’s politics may be dominated by Bhuttos and Sharifs, but America too has seen its share of Adamses, Roosevelts, Kennedys, and Bushes and, arguably, grown stronger for them.

The notion that military interventions weaken the country’s democratic institutions has even been put forth by Pakistan’s famously adversarial judiciary. Recently, Pakistan’s Chief Justice addressed the long-term effects of military intervention on democratic development.

“When there are political crises, we have witnessed military intervention followed by military rule. Thus, there emerged a vicious circle of brief political dispensation followed by prolonged military rule. This state of affairs brought many setbacks and hampered the process of evolution of constitutionalism and democratic system of governance.”

In spite of the myriad obstacles thrown into Pakistan’s path to democratic modernization – coups, wars, poverty, natural disasters, and terrorism – the Pakistani people have consistently demanded to choose their own leaders and decide their own future. Though the democratically elected civilian government faces a number of challenges both internal and external, it remains resilient.

Today the government continues to work with opposition parties to strengthen the democratic process and address important issues by building coalitions across political parties and working towards consensus solutions. The US should encourage this resilience by acknowledging the centrality of Pakistan’s civilian government in its government-to-government negotiations and providing the space necessary for democratization to firmly take root.


Who’s Vexing Whom?

Gen. Kayani and Adm. MullenThis morning’s Washington Post features a front page story by Karin Brulliard and Karen DeYoung that claims “US courts Pakistan’s top general, with little result.” While writing that Pakistan’s top military commander, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, is hesitant to follow American timelines for battling militant groups, however, the article actually explains that a key obstacle to progress in the fight is America’s inability to view the conflict through a broad historical lens.

The US has approximately 1.5 million active duty personnel – fewer than 100,000 of whom (about 6 percent) are stationed in Afghanistan. By comparison, Pakistan’s active duty personnel number around 617,000 – 140,000 of whom (23 percent) are on the Western border with Afghanistan. Either way you cut it, actual numbers of troops or percentage of total military force, the fact is the Pakistan military actually has more boots on the ground dedicated to fighting terrorist groups.

But the real concern is not that Pakistan is not doing enough, its that Pakistan’s military is not moving against groups in the remote areas of North Waziristan on the timeline preferred by some in the Pentagon.

As I explained last week, this could be addressed in part by giving Pakistan the resources it needs to carry out clear and hold operations against militant groups in the remote tribal areas – namely, helicopters. But the deeper issue is one of trust between the two countries, particularly around the question of America’s “end game” in the region. Pakistan needs to be not only assured but convinced that the US is a long-term ally.

In fact, this morning’s Washington Post article even says as much.

Like the influential military establishment he represents, he views Afghanistan on a timeline stretching far beyond the U.S. withdrawal, which is slated to begin this summer. While the Obama administration sees the insurgents as an enemy force to be defeated as quickly and directly as possible, Pakistan has long regarded them as useful proxies in protecting its western flank from inroads by India, its historical adversary.

“Kayani wants to talk about the end state in South Asia,” said one of several Obama administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the sensitive relationship. U.S. generals, the official said, “want to talk about the next drone attacks.”

As I’ve argued before, Pakistan will not be able to change its strategic calculus vis-a-vis Afghanistan until it feels secure against conventional aggression by India. The Pakistani brass see two possible outcomes that they want to avoid facing following an American withdrawal: Fighting militant groups alone or bordering an Afghanistan with a government under the influence of India, effectively leaving them encircled by a historic enemy.

Like any responsible national security team, Pakistan’s strategists must weigh these potential outcomes against the risks of driving historically unaligned militant groups together – a threat that is already materializing, and losing what influence remains with the groups.

For Pakistan’s national security interests to become fully aligned with American interests regarding militant groups in the region, the unacceptable outcomes identified above must be perceived as unrealistic enough to justify the risks. We know this because Gen. Kayani and the Pakistani leadership continue to tell us as much.

Here at home, domestic concern in about the ongoing fight in Afghanistan continues to center on the “end game.” The American people want to know what victory in Afghanistan will look like, and what how long we’ll be in the region. The Pakistanis do to. Until the US can answer that question, it will be vexing Gen. Kayani as much as he’s vexing us.

What's Really Going On In Pakistan?

The headlines about Pakistan lately have been unpleasant. Between tensions over a botched air strike, Bob Woodward’s new book, and Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s announcement that he’s returning to the country – a lot of people are wondering if change is afoot. But media headlines notwithstanding, there’s a lot of reason to believe that Pakistan will not undergo another sudden extra-constitutional change.

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How Petraeus Can Be Successful

Gen. Petraeus meets with Pakistani Gen. Kayani

Following President Obama’s appointing Gen. David Petraeus as Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, commentary has largely been that the change in leadership does not entail a change in strategy. While this is true in the the broader view of American foreign policy and military strategy, progress is often won or lose due to nuance and detail. As such, Gen. Petraeus has a unique opportunity to bring important success to what some complained was a stalled effort in the region.

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US-Pakistan Strengthen Cooperation

“Both the United States and Pakistan agree that the terrorist threat against both countries by extremists must be fought jointly and is done most effectively by strengthening the already existing strategic partnership between our elected governments.  It is our belief that the Pakistani people welcome U.S. support for stronger economic ties and a focus on our common interest in strengthening democracy, civil society and empowering people through education and economic growth.”

To that end, General Jim Jones, U.S.National Security Adviser, CIA Director Leon Panetta. and U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson called on President Asif Ali Zardari to discuss U.S. Pakistan relations and the security situation in the region.  The two countries issued a joint statement, commenting on their common interests.