KIYANI STARTS LOSING CREDIBILITY
INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR--PAPER NO.347
According to well-informed sources in Pakistan, Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), has already started losingcredibility in the lower and middle ranks of the Armed Forces, because of the perception that he is even more amenable to US pressure than even President Pervez Musharraf and the late Mrs.Benazir Bhutto. He is being seen by jihadi organisations and pro-jihadi elements in theArmed Forces as the American man in the GHQ, who has been elevated to the post of the COAS at American instance in order to carry outthe counter-terrorism agenda of the US.
2. His repeated use of helicopter gunships and heavy artillery against the jihadi terrorists in the Swat Valley of the North-West FrontierProvince (NWFP) has come in for strong criticism from the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and other jihadi organisations. His failure to bring thesituation in the Swat Valley under control even after nearly two months of army action has dented his reputation as a professional.
3. His indecisive approach to the continuing violence in the Kurram Agency of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) involvingheavily-armed Shia and Sunni groups and his inability to bring the situation there under control despite a virtual civil war going on betweenthe Shias, allegedly supported by Iran and the Hazaras of Afghanistan, and the Sunnis, allegedly supported by Al Qaeda and the Taliban,have started damaging his reputation. Already there have been about 300 fatalities in the Kurram Agency and over 400 Afghan Sunnirefugees, who were re-settled in this area by the Pakistan Army in the past in order to dilute the preponderance of the Shias, have beendriven into Afghanistan by the Shias, with the Army watching helplessly.
4. Reports that Gen.Kiyani, in response to US concerns that Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the No.2 to Osama bin Laden, is operating from the BajaurAgency, is planning to mount a Swat-like operation there have added to the anger of the jihadi organisations.
5. These sources say that the reported exit of Lt-Gen (retd) Ali Mohammad Jan Aurakzai as the Governor of the NWFP and the FATA wastriggered off by his unhappiness over the disproportionate use of force against the tribals. Lt.Gen.Aurakzai, who hails from the FATA, has alarge circle of personal friends amongst the tribal leaders of the area. It was he who initiated the preocess for a cease-fire agreement withthe tribal leaders of North Waziristan in September,2006. He was in favour of a similar agreement with the tribal leaders of the BajaurAgency.
6. It is reported that he was feeling uncomfortable with what he saw as the heavy-handed approach of Kiyani. What seems to have saddened him was not only the frequent use of helicopter gunships and heavy artillery, but the policy of reprisals against tribal elders notco-operating with the Government.When Kiyani took over as the COAS, there were expectations that he would follow a more nuanced andsophisticated policy in order to prevent an aggravation of the tribal anger, which has been prevalent since the commando action in the LalMasjid of Islamabad in July last year. It looked in the beginning as if he was showing greater patience and greater restraint in dealing withthe Taliban elements, but as they continued to be defiant against the Army, his hall-mark patience and restraint are giving way to aheavy-handed approach. He is reported to be already a targeted man by the jihadi organisations. (7-1-08)
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com )