Army Chief Driving Pakistan’s Agenda for Talks

Pakistan military is at it again. The news that Army Chief is driving Pakistani policy agenda in Washington is another sign shown by the Pakistan Army that bloody civilians are not to be trusted, yet again. After making a mess of Pakistan by running proxy policies in its Eastern and Western borders, why is the Army taking a lead in developing the new policy for the next decade. Has Army not learnt from the past? In a democratic state, it is the government that sets the policies and leads all policy discussions with the foreign nations. All of us who wish to see democratic rule thrive must condemn this manoeuvre by the Pakistan Army. “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it”  (AZW)

Cross Post from The New York Times


Published: March 21, 2010

KARACHI, Pakistan — In a sign of the mounting power of the army over the civilian government in Pakistan, the head of the military, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, will be the dominant Pakistani participant in important meetings in Washington this week.

At home, much has been made of how General Kayani has driven the agenda for the talks. They have been billed as cabinet-level meetings, with the foreign minister as the nominal head of the Pakistani delegation. But it has been the general who has been calling the civilian heads of major government departments, including finance and foreign affairs, to his army headquarters to discuss final details, an unusual move in a democratic system.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has been taking a public role in trying to set the tone, insisting that the United States needs to do more for Pakistan, as “we have already done too much.” And it was at his request that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton agreed this fall to reopen talks between the countries at the ministerial level.

The talks are expected to help define the relationship between the United States and Pakistan as the war against the Taliban reaches its endgame phase in Afghanistan. It is in that context that General Kayani’s role in organizing the agenda has raised alarm here in Pakistan, a country with a long history of military juntas.

The leading financial newspaper, The Business Recorder, suggested in an editorial that the civilian government of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani should act more forcefully and “shun creating an environment conducive to military intervention.”

The editorial added, “The government needs to consolidate civilian rule instead of handing over its responsibilities, like coordination between different departments, to the military.”

“General Kayani is in the driver’s seat,” said Rifaat Hussain, a professor of international relations at Islamabad University. “It is unprecedented that an army chief of staff preside over a meeting of federal secretaries.”

General Kayani visited the headquarters of the United States Central Command in Tampa, Fla., over the weekend, and will attend meetings at the Pentagon with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Monday. He is also to attend the opening ceremony of the talks between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Qureshi at the State Department on Wednesday, a spokesman at the American Embassy in Islamabad said.

The most pressing concerns in the talks, according to officials on both sides, will be trying to establish confidence after several years of a corrosive relationship between allies, which only in the past few months has started to gain some positive momentum.

But the complexity of the main topics at hand — the eventual American pullout from Afghanistan, and Pakistan’s concerns about India — is expected to make for a tough round of talks.

On the positive side for Pakistan, the Obama administration has been rethinking its policies toward the country, said Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States.

“There is a realization that some of its assumptions over the past year were not correct: that Pakistan’s security paradigm could be changed, that its military could be pressured,” Ms. Lodhi said.

Meanwhile, concerned about efforts by the Afghan government to engage in talks with Taliban rebels, who have important bases and allies on Pakistani soil, the Pakistani government will offer itself as a mediator in any such negotiations, Professor Hussain said.

He said that the message would be, “If you want to talk to bring the Afghan Taliban into the mainstream, you should talk to us.”

Tensions with Afghanistan have been raised by some of Pakistan’s recent operations against the Taliban, most notably the recent capture in Pakistan of a senior Afghan Taliban leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. The former head of the United Nations mission in Afghanistan, Kai Eide, said Friday that the arrest had jeopardized back-channel negotiations with Mr. Baradar’s faction of the Taliban.

But the spokesman for the Pakistani Foreign Ministry, Abdul Basit, said Saturday that Mr. Baradar’s arrest had nothing to do with reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan.

India’s growing role in Afghanistan was also high on Pakistan’s agenda. The spokesman for the Pakistani military, Gen. Athar Abbas, said Pakistan would be “conveying very clearly” its displeasure with India’s offer to help train the Afghan Army at the behest of American and NATO forces. Pakistan has made a counteroffer to train the Afghans, an offer that Pakistan knows is unlikely to be accepted but that it made to pressure Washington to stop the Indian proposal, Pakistani analysts said.

General Kayani arrives in Washington after what the Pakistani military considers a stellar nine months in fighting the Pakistani Taliban, first in the region of Swat and most recently in South Waziristan.

The militants, according to the Pakistanis, have been weakened in their bases in the tribal areas, but at a high cost. According to Pakistani Army figures, 2,377 soldiers were killed in the two campaigns. About 1 in 10 of those killed were officers, a very high rate, Professor Hussain said.

With those sacrifices and the heavy toll on army equipment in mind, Pakistan is expecting quicker reimbursement from the United States of its expenses in fighting the militants, General Abbas said.

Pakistan has complained that the United States has unfairly held up payments of $1.2 billion for 2009 under an agreement to help finance the fight against insurgents. For its part, Washington says its auditors need to satisfy Congress that the Pakistani military has properly spent the money owed.



Filed under Afghanistan, Army, Democracy, FATA, India, Islam, Islamabad, Jinnah's Pakistan, Liberal Democratic Pakistan, Media, Obama, Pakistan, state, strategy, Taliban, Terrorism, USA, war, Yusuf Raza Gillani, Zardari

24 responses to “Army Chief Driving Pakistan’s Agenda for Talks

  1. Mohammed Jamal

    It has to be. This is no time for an academic debate between the virtues of democracy and the curse(s) of a dictatorship. India is planning to attack Pakistan in 2012. There is a possibility that USA might attack Iran in 2011. So spacing its own war by a few months., India will certainly wage a war against Pakistan in 2012. India tested hypersonic “Brahmos” missile today 22 Mar 2010. What for ? Who is the enemy ? Where is the threat ? It is nothing but Pakistan. Indian Army is geared to wage a war against Pakistan. It is at the heart of the matter (Hatred). So, in view of the above, everything must be kept aside for the moment (all sorts of debate); and Pakistani Army and its 17 crore citizens must fight this war to the finish. This must be the LAST war between India and Pakistan. One of the 2 will survive… and the one who survives will dominate S. Asia. And yes., it has got to be a nuclear war. I hate to say it., but there is no other way. RSS and the Mullah can be brought to their senses only by nuclear bombs. 10 nuclear bombs are enough to destroy Pakistan to the bone., and 50 bombs are enough to destroy India completely and bring it back to stone age. Since both parties have THAT capabilities., it must be used. You dont make nuclear bombs to display it in the show-case.

    Wake up Pakistan. India is marching., and about to wage a war against you in 2012. Wake up., and prepare… your own response to this agression.

  2. Hayyer

    “One of the 2 will survive… and the one who survives will dominate S. Asia. And yes., it has got to be a nuclear war. I hate to say it., but there is no other way. RSS and the Mullah can be brought to their senses only by nuclear bombs. 10 nuclear bombs are enough to destroy Pakistan to the bone., and 50 bombs are enough to destroy India completely and bring it back to stone age. Since both parties have THAT capabilities., it must be used. You dont make nuclear bombs to display it in the show-case.”

    If both countries use the capability they have both will be destroyed won’t they. That contradicts your thesis that one will survive to dominate the sub continent. Besides aren’t there easier ways of destroying RSS and the Mullahs. Why nuke the rest of us?
    By the way, why have you decided upon 2012 for the conflict. Please, can you postpone, or even better, cancel the forecast?

  3. haq

    Have to strongly disagree with the preamble of this article. It is not the army at work again, it is the politicians who are at work again..

    The current government (not that PML-N would be better) has shown complete lack of vision in all matters relating to running the country. Leave vision aside, even basic competence is an issue with this government. The army is simply filling in a vaccum left open by complete ineptness of this government. The only thing going for PPP is that it is the only national party with somewhat secular credentials.

    Also what do you expect if the country’s second largest party goes around openly courting extremists.

    And before we decide to again deride Pakistan Army, remember that it is natural for armed forces of a country to provide a strong input into matters which impact national security. When such advice is ignored then results are not always good either. Iraq and Afghanistan could have been a different story today if the US Army generals (or navy Admirals as the case maybe) had shown a bit more professional spine towards constitutionally appointed Rumsfield and Cheney.

    Also had it not been for Army’s professional competence and courage, we would be counting the number of butchered bodies hanging by the pole in Lahore and Islamabad today.

    So this time around lets place the blame where it needs to be laid. That is squarely on the shoulders of our political leaders who are again making a complete hash of things.

  4. B. Civilian

    Mohammad Jamal (a.k.a. Das, Harshad Patel, Manik Prabhu, Dastagir etc)

    Before there was the internet, one had to go to the local bazaar or the city’s busiest intersection, if one – for some peculiar reason – wished to look for such precise prophecies. if one were lucky enough one might just find a ‘prophet’ or ‘sage’ warning us of the end of time. but now we have the internet and luck is less of a factor.

  5. PMA

    AZW has once again put himself in the ‘cynics corner’. ‘It is the Army’ – decries he as usual. Alas in his editorial preamble he has bought the premises of this article by JANE PERLEZ lock stock & barrel. There is war going on out there. If not Military Chief then who should accompany the Foreign Minister at the high level talks with their counterparts in the USA. Yeah it attracts the readership. But ‘It the Army’ mantra is loosing the punch it once had both at NYT and PTH.

    Try something new AZW.

  6. yasserlatifhamdani

    AZW is right! Whatever course we take… it should be the civilian government driving the agenda… and not the Army.

  7. Tilsim

    My guess is that the way it will work in practice is that the civilians appear to drive/ negotiate the agenda but the PA has a seat at the table and then veto power. Or in other words, Tthe PA may chose not to sit in the driver’s seat and be more of a ‘passenger side driver’. The PA will probably want to make sure that the civilians don’t end up straying from their strategic depth policy objectives on Afghanistan and relations with India. For the PA, security policy and geopolitics is their domain and not that of fickle politicians as they might perceive them. Of course, the PPP has not publically come out with an alternative line to the PA on Afghanistan so wondering if their agenda is really any different to the PA.

  8. haq

    No AZW is dead wrong, because he is unable to comprehend the naunces here.

    Has the Army Chief stopped the civilian government from deciding the course? No, he has not. The civilian government has abrogated that right by its sheer incompetence. What is stopping the civilian government from articulating its views and leading all government agencies including the military to implement it?

    In my opinion is that they are unable to do this because they do not have a view let alone the competence to implement it. It is not enough to say that we should have friendly relations with each neighbour.

    In all countries each organization including foreign ministries, the military or other relevant organizations would have their own world view. The actual policy would be a result of jostling between these different arms of the government. This latter actual policy making should be led by
    the elected government. But the elected officials cannot do this if they do not have the capacity to build a world view. Please tell me how many experts with working level knowledge does PPP or PML-N has in the field of security policy? Compare that to the US where both Democrats and Republicans (even when they are not in power) have substantial interactions with experts in the subject who they then appoint in key positions of the government at policy level to be able to divese and implement policies.

    This is why our security policies are devised by GHQ and our economic policies by World Bank/IMF and our health and education policies by God knows who.

    So please do not blame Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani for realizing that our Western border would need to be managed in a certain way including the kind of political settlement that is needed in Afghanistan. It is his job to have that view and to try and get it implemented. For sure the view is jaundiced by the uniform that he wears. But it is somebody else’s job to adjust that view by taking into account other factors at play. If that person cannot do this, then what can poor Ashfaq do???

    Do not get me wrong I am not trying to argue for Army’s preminence in Pakistan. The points I am trying to make are simply,

    1. Military input in matters of national security is a key input in all countries.
    2. It is the job of an elected government to take that input and other inputs, formulate a policy and take the lead in implementing it.
    3. An elected government cannot do this if the political party it is formed from does not have any capacity to deal with such issues of governance.
    4. If we want to change the situation then we first have to reform our political parties. Blowing the same old trumpet of Army interference will not get us anywhere.

  9. haq

    apologies for not checking my comments for spelling and grammar errors before posting.

  10. Tilsim

    @ Haq

    I agree that it’s the politicians job to convince all concerned that they have competent policy making processes within their ranks. They don’t have credibility in this regard at the moment but this can and should change and Pakistanis should be demanding this. That said YLH is right, ultimately the final say on policy must lie with politicians in a democratic dispensation and not other organs of state.

    Over the decades, we have seen how important aspects of Pakistan’s security policy have not served Pakistanis (or its neighbours) very well and that needs to change. A security policy correctly labelled as running with the hare and hunting with the hounds has proven to be a disaster.

    I would like the PPP to articulate to the public a policy that provides a better and convincing alternative to the present strategic depth policy (i.e support for Afghan Taliban). In my view, settling our issues with India could go a long way towards resolving our security issues both domestically and across the border in Afghanistan.

  11. Haq

    nobody diagrees with the need for elected government and its control over all branches of government. This thesis was done decades ago and is established. However our political evolution all these years has been one step forward and one if not two steps back.

    All I am trying to say is that blaming the Army for this at the drop of a hat is not enough. The problem lies elsewhere i.e. the inability of our political parties (or at least the two largest ones) to come to grips with anything that has to do with governance.

    Instead of taking out our frustrations on the Army we should try to take our analysis one step further.

  12. Tilsim

    I don’t disagree with your diagnosis and prescription for the situation. It’s very insightful. I simply became confused when you said that “The civilian government has abrogated that right by its sheer incompetence.” The use of the word abrogate seemed to imply something else.

  13. DCMediagirl

    @B. Civilian: The crummy film “2012” made a boatload of money. Perhaps now India is following the Mayan calendar in accordance with the movie’s premise

  14. DCMediagirl

    Follow up to my previous post: I hope everyone can detect my sarcasm. My comment was not meant to be taken seriously.

  15. AZW

    PMA, Haq:

    General Parvez Kiyani’s previous message of Army staying away from the national politics was welcomed by all. He had withdrawn serving officers from civilian positions. There were reports that serving officers were told to stay away from political leaders. These were all welcome steps and were duly lauded.

    There is nothing wrong with the Army Chief actively participating in the national policy matters. Army must be a part of national policy formation. But Army cannot take a lead over the civilian government in decision making of national policies.

    Mr. Kiyani calling five federal secretaries to his office for consultation may seem trivial to all. But why would the head of the national army not go to a federal minister office where the protocol demands the meeting to be held? GHQ and NHQ come under the ministry of defence, and as Riffat Hussain says, it is unprecedented for an army chief to preside over a meeting of federal secretaries.

    Lest we think that it is a minor one off consultative arrangement, we have a disturbing episode just a few months back where Army statements came sharply critical of the civilian government against the Kerry Luger Bill. We can argue with merits or demerits of that statement, but army had grossly circumvented the civilian authority in that case.

    Fine we are in Pakistan that is ruled for almost three quarter of its existence by the Army. This was a country where Army Chief has more often become the President, Defence Minister, and Chief Executive of the nation. But if we all want Pakistan to be a democratic nation, where no matter how unsavoury the government may seem, the government authority has to be accepted for the fact that it derives from the people’s mandate. And it is this government that must take lead in formulation of national policy, not the Army.

    If we can’t even condemn this gross violation of democratic protocol by the serving army chief, don’t rue for democracy later when the small transgressions into the democratic protocol were ignored in the name of war, national security, or democratic government somehow not being up to standard when it came to the matters of national policy. And small unnoticed transgressions have never failed to turn into major violations later.

  16. hoss

    “The problem lies elsewhere i.e. the inability of our political parties (or at least the two largest ones) to come to grips with anything that has to do with governance.”

    Within two years time the army chief has again become the de facto President and you think problem lies somewhere else?
    Pakistan has gone through a soft coup.

    I do blame PPP for picking up unnecessary fights with the SC or other political parties instead of consolidating the civil institutions but come on, was two years enough time to clean up Aegean’s stable left behind by the army and its previous Chief?

  17. haq

    AZW and Hoss,

    In any democratic country if the Army Chief had presided over a meeting of Federal Secretaries without government approval, he would have most likely been fired. So why is Kayani not fired?

    Because Gillani and Zardari (subsitute Shahbaz and Nawaz for them if you want) do not have their own house in order. Ok lets assume Kayani is fired today and another army chief is appointed. I can bet you that we would see a repeat of a similar incident within 12-18 months.

    If you are too incompetent to do your job then somebody else will come and do it for you. Please do not blame that somebody, it is only a natural state of affairs.

    The problem with Pakistan is not Army interference, it is the inability of our political parties to articulate a vision for the country which is modern and their incapacity to implement it. Call it a failure of intellectuals, a weak urban middle class or a stage in country’s political evolution. The fact remains.

    Remember there was a not whisper of protest when Pervez Musharaf took over in 1998. Throughout his 10 years or so in power his views/policies continued to resonate with a large number of Pakistanis, till he messed up massively with the CJ affair. Was he in a preverse way articulating the demands of an urban middle class? Demands which in a proper manner should be articulated by a political party?

    The urban middle or lower middle class today makes up the bulk of Pakistan Army’s officer corp. Something to ponder perhaps.

    PS. Not implying or supporting that the Pakistan Army should be the vanguard of political change in any way.

  18. B. Civilian

    “If you are too incompetent to do your job then somebody else will come and do it for you. Please do not blame that somebody, it is only a natural state of affairs.”

    If you don’t lock up the windows, a thief will come and steal from your house. Please don’t blame the thief.

    The law? it’s just a piece of paper.

  19. Majumdar

    Haq sb,

    So why is Kayani not fired?

    If AAZ or YRG try to fire him, Kayani will prolly instruct Brigade 111 to practise some serious pole vault.


  20. B. Civilian


    truer democrats dare the generals to instruct 111 brigade when the military and military rule is least popular. it may tend to be a small window of opportunity, but that is the time to hit and hit hard as many blows for civilian supremacy as possible without seriously risking reversing the military’s unpopularity. that is the time to make more meaningful structural changes, rather than optics that might actually backfire and work to change people’s low opinion of the military at the time.

  21. B. Civilian

    “Please do not blame that somebody, it is only a natural state of affairs.”

    “a natural state of affairs”, e.g. the law of the jungle, might is right etc.

  22. Midfield Dynamo

    Pakistan’s geo-strategic position demands an active role of its army in policy making, there are too many intangible security concerns to be handled solely by the civilian legislatures, Pakistan cannot function on the model of some successful countries, the examples of which are cited as imperatives for its progress. Pakistan has to devise its own functionality incorporating its military in the civilian executive echelons.
    In trying to draw a line not crossable, creates a situation of either this or that, which is why when there is a total breakdown of law and order in the civilian setup the army ‘an outside entity’ steps in, whereas if the army would be from the inside, it would always be present and there would be no such need.
    Israel, although its mention would be blasphemous, has created such a model for itself and no one points a finger, because it is functional. Pakistan can do the same, our civilian executive should be cognizant of the requirements which satisfy the goals of the military and the military should not wait for a disaster prevention scenario to step in, it should seek the satisfaction of the goals every step of the way. God bless Pakistan’s leadership, both civilian and military, after all this is what we have to make do with, as individuals they have singular qualities, for some reason they become dysfunction as a team.

  23. Haq

    B Civilian and Majumdar,

    u r completely missing the point.

  24. banjara286

    the role that kiyani is playing right now is beyond despicable. we now have a head of state who has bypassed even a semblance of the political process. and it is less than amusing that the champions of independence of the judiciary – the cj and the lawyers community – have completely gone into hiding; no taking suo moto notice of affairs here. heck we can’t find a maulvi iqbal haider to move the supreme court on the gross trampling of the constitution.

    if the army wants to control the foreign policy, the security/defence policy and, indirectly, the finances of the country, by usurping the lion’s share of the budget, then let these goons also farm the land to produce food and grain for the nation, provide services (electricity and water would be a nice start) and work in the factories to produce industrial goods for export to earn the revenue.

    but this good for nothing lot is — precisely — good for nothing.