As expected, President General Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan announced a major reshuffle of the senior officers of the Pakistan Army of the rank of Generals and
Lt.Generals on October 2 and 3,2004. The reshuffle was necessitated by the impending retirement of Gen.Mohammad Aziz Khan, as the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, and Gen.Muhammad Yusuf Khan as the Vice-Chief of the Army Staff, both on October 7,2004.
The details of the promotions and postings announced by Musharraf are given in the annexure available from the RHS bar.. With the retirement of Gen.Mohammad Aziz Khan, a Kashmiri belonging to the Sudan tribe, from the Army, the Pakistan Army does not have any identified fundamentalist officers in the rank of Lt.Gen./Gen. When Musharraf seized power on October 12, 1999, the Army had two identified "fundos" in the rank of Lt.Gen.-- Lt.Gen. Mohammad Aziz Khan, who was then the Chief of the General Staff (CGS), and Lt.Gen.Muzaffar Usmani, the then Corps Commander, Karachi.
Subsequently, Musharraf appointed Mohammad Aziz Khan as the Commander of one of the two Corps in Lahore and Lt.Gen.Usmani as the Deputy Chief of the Army Staff. It was the triumvirate of Lt.Gen. Usmani as Corps Commander, Karachi,, Lt.Gen.Mohammad Aziz Khan as the CGS and Lt.Gen.Mahmood Ahmed, as the then Corps Commander of Rawalpindi, which had staged the coup against Nawaz Sharif, the then Prime Minister, in the absence of Musharraf from the country and paved the way for his installation as the military dictator with the designation of Chief Executive. They refused to accept Nawaz's order dismissing Musharraf as the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) and appointing Lt.Gen.Ziauddin, the then Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence ISI), in his place. They had both Nawaz and Ziauddin arrested.
After taking over, Musharraf appointed Lt.Gen.Mahmood Ahmed as the DG of the ISI. After the 9/11 terrorist strikes, the US reportedly exercised pressure on Musharraf to ease out all the three from the sensitive posts held by them before the US military operations against Al Qaeda and the Taliban started on October 7,2001. The US did not trust Usmani and Mohammad Aziz Khan because of their close proximity to the Islamic fundamentalist parties and it was annoyed with Mahmood Ahmed because of his failure to pressure Mulla Mohammad Omer, the Amir of the Taliban, to hand over Osama bin Laden to the US.
After 9/11 and before the US military strikes started, Musharraf had sent a team of senior religious clerics of Pakistan headed by the late Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai of the Binori Madrasa, Karachi, to Kandahar to persuade Mulla Omar to hand over Osama to the US. He had asked Mahmood Ahmed, in his capacity as the DG,ISI, to accompany them.
During their meeting with the Amir, instead of asking him to hand over Osama to the US, they complimented him for not doing so and encouraged him to continue to resist US pressure. Mahmood Ahmed, who was present during the meeting, reportedly did not intervene and kept quiet. The US was furious with him on coming to know of this from one of the Mullas, who was allegedly in the pay of the US. It demanded his removal from the post of DG,ISI.
Musharraf had Usmani and Mahmood removed on October 7,2001. They went on premature retirement. He could not remove Mohammad Aziz Khan from the Army because of his Kashmiri background, his popularity amongst the fundamentalist parties and jihadi organisations and his role in orchestrating the jihad against the Indian Army in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). He removed him from Lahore, promoted him as a four-star General and appointed him to the largely powerless post of Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.
To reassure the fundamentalist parties and the jihadi organisations that his being kicked upstairs would not involve any dilution of the Pakistani support to the jihad in J&K, he told them that even after his appointment as the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, he would continue to handle the jihad in J&K.
Usmani, though a fundamentalist like Aziz, was not as popular as Aziz amongst the fundamentalist organisations. Musharraf did not, therefore, have to worry about any negative consequences of his removal.
Even after Aziz retires on October 7, 2004, Musharraf has to keep a wary eye on him. Because of his role in the Kashmiri jihad and in helping the Taliban, Aziz is very popular amongst the lower ranks of the Army. Some of the junior Army officers and a Kashmiri belonging to the same Sudan tribe as Aziz and coming from the same village in the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) as Aziz, who were arrested following the first unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Musharraf in December last year, were reported to have stated during the interrogation that they wanted to kill Musharraf not only because of his betrayal of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, but also of Aziz. The Kashmiri detenu has reportedly accused Musharraf of preventing a Kashmiri (Aziz) from becoming the COAS for the first time in the history of Pakistan by giving himself an extension .
Musharraf might find himself compelled to reassure the jihadis once again that Aziz's retirement would not mean any change in his Kashmir policy. There is already speculation in Pakistan that he might appoint Aziz as the President of the POK in replacement of Maj.Gen. (retd)Mohammad Anwar Khan, the present President, who is Aziz's cousin or nephew.
Ehsanul Haq, who succeeds Aziz, is believed to be a Pashtun. He is a close family friend of Qazi Hussain Ahmed, the Amir of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI), but is not a fundamentalist himself. In 2001, when Musharraf accepted an invitation from A.B.Vajpayee, the then Indian Prime Minister, to visit India for the Agra summit, the Qazi was strongly critical of it and refused to attend an all-party meeting convened by Musharraf before going to India. It was Ehsanul Haq, then a Corps Commander at Peshawar, who met the Qazi, at Musharraf's request, and persuaded him to support Musharraf's decision to visit India.
After taking over as the DG, ISI, he came under some suspicion in February,2002, when Omar Sheikh, one of the principal accused in the case relating to the kidnapping and murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl, reportedly told the Karachi Police during the interrogation that during a visit to Kandahar before9/11 to meet Osama, he had come to know of Al Qaeda's plans for the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US and had mentioned this to Ehsanul Haq at Peshawar on his return. Omar Sheikh's allegation did not, however, affect Ehsanul Haq's position as the DG,ISI.
The US was reported to have been quite happy with his stewardship of the ISI for three years during which some pro-jihadi officers were eased out of it and many key Al Qaeda operatives, who had taken shelter in Pakistan, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, were arrested by the ISI and handed over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). At the same time, there was concern over his perceived inaction against the Taliban leaders operating from the Pakistani territory. This, however, did not affect the USA's over-all positive assessment of him.
Keeping this in view, one would have expected Musharraf to appoint him as the VCOAS, in which capacity he would have continued to supervise and co-ordinate the functioning of the ISI. The post of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee to which he has been appointed is a largely paper-rich post involving medium and long-term assessment of the needs of the military, preparing and revising operational plans etc and does not involve important executive and operational responsibilities. Unless Musharraf has reassured the US that Ehsanul Haq would continue to be actively involved in the operations against Al Qaeda, his being shunted up to this post could mean his marginalisation for the next three years before he quits the Army.
It is not clear whether Gen. Hayat, the new VCOAS, who will assist Musharraf in the day to day running of the Army and the ISI and in supervising the anti-Al Qaeda operations, is a Punjabi or a Mohajir. He is senior to Ehsanul Haq, having been commissioned in 1967 in the Armoured Corps, whereas Ehsanul Haq was commissioned in 1969 in an Army Air Defence Regiment. Gen. Hayat is known for his personal loyalty to Musharraf and his proximity to the US. These two factors would seem to have played a role in the June 10 attempt to assassinate him at Karachi by the Jundullah ( the Army of Allah), a new organisation, which is a member of the IIF.
Not much is known about Lt.Gen.Kiani, the new DG of the ISI. He had also served in the past as the DG of Military Operations, an important post from the point of view of the anti-Al Qaeda operations.
Mohammad Aziz Khan and Muhammad Yusuf Khan owed their promotions as Lt.Gen. to Nawaz Sharif and not to Musharraf. With them out of the way and the supersession and consequent premature retirement of six others, all the serving Lts.Gen, owed their rise above the rank of Brigadier personally to Musharraf. He would, therefore, be confident of their personal loyalty to him.
There is unlikely to be any opposition from them to his giving himself another extension as the COAS or any heart-burning over it. The opposition to it is mainly from the opposition political parties and sections of the public. While it is certain that , with US backing for his decision, Musharraf will continue to wear the second hat of COAS after December in violation of the formal commitment made by him to the political parties to resign from that post, the events leading to his decision are not proceeding as he had expected them to .
He was planning to have resolutions passed by the two Houses of the Federal Parliament and the Legislative Assemblies of the four provinces requesting him to continue as the COAS too in Pakistan's supreme national interest. The provincial Assemblies of Sindh and Punjab have already done so and there should be no problem in getting similar resolutions passed by the two Houses of the Federal Parliament, which he controls through the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaide Azam) and the defectors from Benazir Bhutto's People's Party Parliamentarians.
However, he has been facing difficulty in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Balochistan. The NWFP Assembly, which is dominated by the fundamentalists, has opposed his continuing as the COAS and in the Balochistan Assembly,where the fundamentalists have a large but not dominating presence, his supporters have not so far been able to have their way.
The religious fundamentalist parties, who feel cheated by him on this issue, have organised a series of public rallies to oppose his continuing as the COAS. Reliable reports from Pakistan say that the response to their rallies on this issue has been disquietingly (to Musharraf) large in the NWFP, reflecting the continuing Pashtun anger over his co-operation with the US against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
Musharraf does not, however, have to worry over the protests of the political parties opposed to him and the religious fundamentalists, so long as he has the support of his officers and the US. Unless the public protests against him gather unexpected momentum, as had happened under Ayub Khan, which seems unlikely at present, he should have no concerns over any negative public reaction to his violating his past commitment on the COAS issue.
If at all there is any threat to Musharraf's position, it is likely to come not from the senior officers, but from junior officers not only in the Army, but also in the Air Force. As admitted by Musharraf himself in a private TV interview in June, 2004, the investigations into the two attempts to kill him last December have revealed the involvement of junior non-commissioned officers of the Army and Air Force. Any future threat to his position would come mainly from that level and not from a senior level in the form of another conspiracy to kill him.
There is some penetration of jihadi organisations into the Army and the Air Force at the lower and middle levels and there is anger against Musharraf at those levels because of his co-operation with the US against Al Qaeda and the Taliban and in the anti-proliferation investigation against Dr.A.Q.Khan, the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb. There is also considerable anger amongst the Shias in the Armed Forces over his inability to stop the massacre of Shias by Sunni terrorists. Since he took over power, there have been 40 instances of massacre of Shias in different cities of Pakistan. Such a large number of anti-Shia massacres had not taken place under any other previous leader. Any threat to him would come from these sections.
The new promotions and postings mark the climbing up the professional ladder of a new generation of officers, who distinguished themselves not in battles against India over Kashmir or in the covert jihad against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan ostensibly to protect Islam, but in the so-called war against Al Qaeda to protect American lives and promote US interests. The fact that they did well in this war might be a good performance in the eyes of the US political leadership and policy-makers, but not in the eyes of large sections of Pakistani public opinion.
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and Distinguished Fellow and Convenor, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Chennai Chapter.
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