(by Betsy Pisik, November 29, 2007, WashingtonTimes.com) ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – A pro-American general who will assume control of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and lead its war against Islamic militants took command of Pakistan’s military yesterday as President Pervez Musharraf retired after four decades in the army.
Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, 55, received the gold-colored baton of military command from a misty-eyed Mr. Musharraf in a highly choreographed ceremony in Rawalpindi, the garrison city next to Islamabad.
“I am handing over command to a person I have known for 20 years,” Mr. Musharraf said. “I have known him from the time he was a colonel and I strongly believe that under his command the army will improve further and go to new heights.”
Mr. Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup, is to be sworn in today for a second five-year term – this time as a civilian president.
He is expected to lift most, but not all, elements of emergency rule by the weekend.
Gen. Kayani is known to U.S. military and diplomatic officials from his days as the director general of the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency.
“All the international diplomats and military think he is the best guy for the job,” said a Western military official here. “He doesn’t have a big ego. As a result, he will take advice” on how to prosecute the battle against extremists along the rugged Afghan border.
The Pakistani army is entrenched in a brutal battle with pro-Taliban militants in the Swat Valley. It said yesterday that troops had killed about 220 followers of a pro-Taliban cleric Maulana Fazlullah.
The U.S. military, which is participating in the NATO action in Afghanistan, sees this region as a pivotal front in the battle against extremism. Washington has pumped about $10 billion in military assistance into Pakistan since September 11 in an effort to defeat Islamic terrorism closer to its source.
People who have worked with Gen. Kayani this week described the son of a noncommissioned officer as “a soldier’s soldier” and “a master strategist” who obsessively reads military history and loves to golf.
“Afghanistan is a 20 or 30 percent success rate. Small but positive,” said one military official who has worked with Gen. Kayani for many years but did not want his name used.
“Iraq is a different story, Americans are butchered there. The difference is that Iraq’s neighbors are not supporting it, while Pakistan is.”
He said much of the early planning and strategizing in the latest offensive was overseen by Gen. Kayani, who also used ISI resources to deliver scores of America’s most-wanted in Afghanistan.
Often described as pro-Western, the chain-smoking general studied at the military college at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and earned a master’s degree in military strategy from Pakistan’s elite National Defense Institute.
Mr. Musharraf entrusted Gen. Kayani to investigate two failed attempts on his life in December 2003, and a year later promoted him to be the director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI.
Gen. Kayani reportedly has assured foreign diplomats that he will focus on strengthening morale and performance of the armed services, separating the military from the country’s political structure.
He also has worked as a deputy military secretary to both Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto when they were prime ministers.
“We welcome Musharraf’s decision to shed the uniform,” said Mrs. Bhutto, leader of Pakistan People’s Party, one of the two main opposition parties.
“Now the Pakistani army has got a full-fledged chief and they can better perform their duties,” the Associated Press quoted Mrs. Bhutto as saying.
But she said her party would “not take any decision in haste” on whether it could accept Mr. Musharraf as a civilian president.
Mr. Sharif, another opposition leader, again rejected Mr. Musharraf’s presidency, saying his presidential oath today would have “no legitimacy,” according to the AP.
Copyright 2007 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of the Washington Times. This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization. Visit the website at www.washingtontimes.com.
1. Who is Ashfaq Kayani?
2. Why is it important to the U.S. that Gen. Kayani is pro-American?
3. What military qualifications does Gen. Kayani have? Be specific.
4. What do others say about Gen. Kayani’s ability to lead Pakistan’s military?
5. President Musharraf caused a huge public outcry against him that resulted in the transfer of military command to Gen. Kayani. This happened because of his recent actions including suspending the constitution, declaring emergency rule, dismissing troublesome judges, detaining hundreds of political critics, and imposing restrictions on the media. When is he expected to lift most elements of emergency rule in Pakistan?
6. a) Name the two former prime ministers of Pakistan mentioned in this article.
b) How did these former prime ministers react to President Musharraf handing over command of the military and taking the Presidential oath today as a civilian?
GOVERNMENT OF PAKISTAN:
Pakistan is a federal democratic republic with Islam as the state religion. The semi-presidential system includes a bicameral legislature consisting of a 100-member Senate and a 342-member National Assembly. The President is the Head of State and [until yesterday] the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and is elected by an electoral college. The prime minister is usually the leader of the largest party in the National Assembly. …(From wikipedia.org)
For information on Pakistan’s government, go to the CIA World FactBook here.
Follow the developing story out of Pakistan at Yahoo News here.
Read about President Musharraf’s reasons for his imposition of a state of emergency from his point of view at Pakistan’s official government website at pak.gov.pk.
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