In deft moves, General Ashfaq Kayani has relaid the command structure in the Pakistan army. He has changed four of the nine corps commanders, named a new chief of the general staff and, most significantly, replaced the head of the Inter-Services Intelligence with his own man, General Ahmad Shuja Pasha. Apart from consolidating Mr Kayani’s hold over the army, the shuffle sends out a discreet message to both the civilian leadership of Pakistan and to the world, the United States of America in particular. The former recently made a botched attempt to bring the ISI under the control of the interior ministry, and the latter has been overridingly critical of the organization lately for its alleged involvement in terror attacks in Afghanistan. To both, Mr Kayani intends to specify that the ISI is an adjunct of the army and amenable to the control of none but the army, that is, the army chief. The tough stand lends more muscle to his posturing vis-à-vis the US, which he has openly accused as an aggressor after its aerial and land attacks on Pakistani soil. Mr Kayani’s strident anti-Americanism has done wonders to his image, which will no doubt be further served by his attempts to re-organize the command and loyalties of the Pakistan army.
The change in the ISI leadership promises no change in its mode of functioning, at least not instantly. That may be a major worry for the world’s forces allied to fight terror. For Pakistan, however, the reordering will bring an immediate advantage. General Pasha has been closely linked with the army’s operations in the Taliban-infested spots in the federally-administered areas in Pakistan for the past few years, and his expertise can guide the army’s continued involvement in the region. The Pakistan army is fighting a difficult battle on its western borders, where religion has complicated the choices and policies of the establishment. A more efficient intelligence-gathering mechanism will definitely help the operation. But for the army to really succeed, it will be necessary for both the military and civilian leaderships to think through their stand on terrorists and their jihad. That will also sort out the confusion about the ISI’s role. It has been used by the army to aid and abet terror activities to retain Pakistan’s strategic control over the region. A more comprehensive change in the ISI is needed if Mr Kayani is serious about the commitment to defend Pakistan.