The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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General alters stripes, India watches

Washington, Oct. 4: The weekend reshuffle of Pakistan army's top brass offers a mixed bag for India at a time when New Delhi is banking on the army to advance a peace process which has eluded success in similar initiatives with civilian leaders across the border in 57 years.

The appointment of Lt. Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani yesterday as chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is the culmination of General Pervez Musharraf's slow and painful efforts since September 11, 2001, to rid the ISI of jihadi influence.

Kiyani was trained by the Americans at their military establishments and retains links from that period with the US army and security framework. His appointment marks a turning point: General Zia-ul-Haq started a process of appointing Islamist generals to the ISI.

It is widely expected here that Kiyani will vigorously accelerate the process of returning the agency to westernisation and military professionalism with less emphasis on religion.

India will have to watch out in the next few days to find out the fate of General Muhammad Aziz, who retires as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee on October 7.

The grapevine here, which usually has a finger on the pulse of Pakistan's Army General Headquarters (GHQ), in Rawalpindi believes that Aziz, a Kashmiri, will become 'president' of the so-called Azad Kashmir, occupied by Pakistan.

The implications of such an appointment will depend on the equation between Aziz and Musharraf, which few people have a clue about.

Aziz is one of three generals who neutralised Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on October 12, 1999, and enabled Musharraf's plane to land in Karachi. Sharif was overthrown as soon as Musharraf landed on Pakistani soil.

Aziz is also only one of that trio to have remained in power.

The other two generals on whose back Musharraf climbed into the presidency ' then Rawalpindi Corps Commander Mahmood Ahmad and the then Karachi Corps Commander Muzzafar Usmani ' were humiliated and retired a month after September 11 for their alleged Islamist sympathies.

Aziz, who was chief of Musharraf's general staff, was promoted to the largely ceremonial post of chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. Wings clipped, he remained in his job. Despite his reputation as a jihadi, General Musharraf tolerated Aziz because he has a reputation of having an independent base and following in the army.

The murky world of Pakistan's Army GHQ is known as much for accommodation and expediency as for treachery and dire plotting.

If Aziz and Musharraf decide to accommodate each other, the new 'president' of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) will be the man who can put into practice the Pakistan President's assurance to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New York that he will eventually turn off the tap of support for terrorists in border areas and completely choke off supplies to those already inside Jammu and Kashmir.

Conventional wisdom is that Musharraf and Aziz will help each other in preventing the sensitive area from spinning out of control.

PoK is in the throes of a political crisis, caught in a clash between its current 'president', General Anwar Khan, and its 'prime minister', Sikander Hayat.

It would be puerile to suggest that because the new ISI chief was Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) and had regular hotline contact with his Indian counterpart, his appointment would favourably reflect on India.

DGMOs deal with the harsh realities on the Indo-Pakistan border and the Line of Control (LoC). If anything, it is a job that hardens attitudes towards each other.

The latest army reshuffle, 10 days before the fifth anniversary of Musharraf's coup against Sharif, is the 38th such shake-up since he became Pakistan's CEO and later President.

Musharraf has not allowed a single general to settle down in any post since October 12, 1999, so that they have no time to plot against him.

The seven major generals he promoted as lieutenant generals yesterday and other appointees announced during the weekend are all one hundred per cent Musharraf loyalists.

Whether they will be allowed to settle down in their jobs unlike their predecessors will determine the stability and course of Pakistan's policies as Musharraf prepares for a new role in the country's politics.

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