The extension on July 22, 2010, by Pakistan Prime Minister Raza Yousuf Gilani, of the service of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani by three years was not, as some Indian and Western analysts have said, a move which precipitates a possible return to politics by the Army, but the start of a process which in fact, stabilizes and improves the control of the Government and Armed Forces. Gen. Kayani had been due to retire on November 29, 2010.
Noted Indian analyst Indranil Banerjie, writing in the Asian Age on July 25, 2010, asked “Has Zardari Sanctioned Another Coup?”, noting that Pakistan Pres. Asif Ali Zardari had “just given a three-year extension to his Army chief ...”. He went on: “This is the just the second time in the history of Pakistan when such an extension has been granted by a civilian head of state”.
The reality, however, is that the “coup” has already taken place, but not by the military. Executive authority has already been almost totally removed from the Presidency and given to Parliament, and the Cabinet under the Prime Minister. Pres. Zardari’s power has thus been effectively removed. And it was Prime Minister Gilani who asked Gen. Kayani to stay in office to ensure that stability was enhanced in the anticipated difficult years ahead, as the US and other Coalition forces begin — in 2011 — withdrawing forces from neighboring Afghanistan.
The withdrawal of most of the Coalition forces from Afghanistan — however it is disguised to the outside world (but not to the internal forces) — is expected to add dramatically to the security challenges facing Pakistan, and the Pakistan Government is preparing for this be restructuring the military for greater efficiency. The process has been, to this point, discreet. First, the highly-effective Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lt.-Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, on March 10, 2010, had his own term of office extended by Prime Minister Gilani.
At the time, in the March 15, 2010, report, this Service noted: “This presages the probable extension in office of Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who became the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) of the Pakistan Army on November 28, 2007, under the Presidency of Pervez Musharraf. Gen Kayani has long had a friendship with, and professional faith in, Lt.-Gen. Pasha.” That report continued: “Gen. Tariq Majid, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, was also scheduled to retire in 2010, and it is possible that this may be postponed, but it is possible — even probable — that his retirement will be allowed to happen on its normal rotation so as not to entirely block the promotions chain in the Armed Forces.”
It is now known that under the major defense restructuring now underway, the post of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will assume the rôle which was originally intended for it: to be the supreme military oversight and joint command post, rather than as a post which was, in fact, subordinate to the COAS. As a result, it is now anticipated that Gen. Kayani will replace Gen. Majid as Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, in the very near future, simultaneous with the announcement that the post will assume the function of overall military command. Thus, the Pakistani command structure will finally be re-shaped along the lines of the US, UK, Australia, Egypt, and so on, with all service chiefs — including the historically dominant COAS — coming directly and meaningfully under the Chairman, JCS.
To prepare for this, a new Chief of the General Staff was recently appointed. Lt.-Gen. Khalid Shameem Wynne, the present Chief of General Staff (CGS), was now expected to be promoted to four-star rank in a newly created Vice-Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS) post.
There has been speculation in the Pakistani media, as recently as July 24, 2010 [in The International News] that Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman, Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), could succeed Gen. Majid, but GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs sources indicate that this could only occur if the post of Chairman JCS was to remain less of a true joint command function. Air Chief Marshal Rao will be in Washington, DC, for talks during the week of August 2, 2010, for talks with his US counterparts.
Also, to ensure continuity in defense planning and management over the coming difficult period, Lt.-Gen. (rtd.) Athar Ali, the Secretary of Defence, may be given a two-year extension in his position.
Where some of these announced promotions caused speculation in some circles was that the post of Vice-Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS) had, in the past, only been used in times of domestic civil uncertainty. Clearly, while the new creation of the VCOAS post may indeed be to assist in national management in the anticipated crisis period, sources indicated that it was to position, or prepare, Lt.-Gen. Wynne to take over as COAS when Gen. Kayani moves up to Chairman JCS.
And by promoting both Gen. Kayani and Lt.-Gen. Wynne, the promotional chain — held up for some years while Gen. Musharraf retained the COAS position when he was also President — would allow for further change as the situation required. It seems unlikely that the post of VCOAS would be re-created just for a few months, however, so it seems likely that if Gen. Kayani and Lt.-Gen. Wynne make moves to CJCS and COAS respectively, then the post of VCOAS could remain functional, with a new appointee.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Gilani must continue to consolidate a unified government — which he has achieved against many odds, in the face of the ambitions of Pres. Zardari and those of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of the PML (Nawaz) party — in the hope of getting through the coming few years without having to see the Government collapse from internal pressures. Essentially, for the time being, Pres. Zardari and Nawaz Sharif have been contained, and the Armed Forces and Prime Minister Gilani have been of like mind in this.
From GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs Station Islamabad.
(c) 2010 International Strategic Studies Association, www.StrategicStudies.org