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THE TIMES OF INDIA
By Indrani Baghchi
March 22, 2010
Those who know him say he is a brooder. But those who know him well will tell you that’s just one of the layers to the deeply complicated and thinking mind of Pakistan army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. The bluster that marked Musharraf has been dumped for quiet gravitas as the man from Rawalpindi goes about turning friends like the US and Britain into closer allies and outmanoeuvering not-so-friendly neighbours like India and Afghanistan at international fora. In a country brought to its knees by terror, corruption and an inept political system, the former ISI chief is putting up a masterly show as he calls the shots.
Sitting with foreign minister S M Krishna this February, US defence secretary Robert Gates said he was going to Pakistan the next day. So who was he going to meet? Oh, a number of people, said Gates, but his most important conversation would be with Pakistan army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. “Why not Zardari?” asked Krishna, referring to the Pakistan president. “Because Kayani is the most important man out there,” Gates said matter-of-factly . And Gates should know – in Washington, he’s often described as the most powerful defence secretary Pentagon has had in a long while.
Slowly, almost imperceptibly, this low-profile general has emerged from the shadows. The obvious ineptitude of the Pakistan political establishment seems to have finally helped burnish the credentials of the Pakistan Army whose reputation was in tatters in the final days of the last military dictator, General Pervez Musharraf. And with its return has emerged its boss Kayani. Compared to Zardari’s gang that just can’t shoot straight, many in Pakistan seem to view the Army chief as a better bargain – although it’s debatable that they’ll want a return to military rule.