Pak Army Reshuffle Suggests Status Quo On Kashmir: Analyst

4 October 2008

Lahore: Pakistani military circles are saying that the recent reshuffle undertaken in the army by Chief of Army Staff, General Asfaq Parvez Kayani, is an indication that the armed forces are unlikely to change their policy on Kashmir. According to an analysis appearing in The News, the changes seem to be part of a much broader shake-up of senior assignments involving 14 new promotions and senior commands. General Kayani, the analysis claims, is keen on consolidating his own position after the exit of President General Pervez Musharraf and in recasting Pakistans strategy in the war against terror following the once most trusted American ally General Musharraf’’s exit from the political scene. Military circles believe the choice of generals getting promotions establishes General Kayani’’s coming of age, besides removing Musharraf’’s controversial legacy by sidelining those who were closely aligned with him. As a part of the Sept 29 changes in the Army, Lt. General Ahmed Shuja Pasha succeeded Lt. General Nadeem Taj, a distant relative of Musharraf, as ISI director-general. Lt. Gen. Taj was the ISI chief for less than a year. As Lt. Gen. Pasha has been directly in command of an ongoing military campaign against Taliban militants in his earlier capacity as the Director General of Military Operations, the focus seems to be more on counter-terrorism rather than on the situation in Kashmir. Military circles say that Lt. Ge. Pasha is considered to be a staunch Kayani loyalist who has attended all six meetings between the Army chief and the US Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen. The last such meeting was held on August 26, 2008 on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln. As Lt. Gen. Pasha enjoys a good rapport with the Pentagon, his assumption as ISI chief is being seen in Washington as a step in the right direction, given that relations between Islamabad and Washington have touched their lowest ebb since the 9-11 attacks. Lt. Gen. Pasha is set to serve the armed forces for four more years as he is due to retire in September 2012. He has commanded an infantry brigade and an infantry division and has served as the Chief Instructor of the Command and Staff College. In addition to Lt-Gen Nadeem Taj’’s removal as the ISI chief, two major generals, heading the internal and external wings of the ISI, have been denied promotion and superseded. Major General Nusrat Naeem, the head of the ISI’’s internal wing and Major General Asif Akhtar, the head of the ISI’’s external wing, have been superceded, but have been allowed to continue till their superannuation as major-generals. Major General Zahir ul Islam has been appointed as the director-general counter intelligence, the second most important post in the ISI. As a result of the reshuffle, General Kayani now has the key slots of the Chief of General Staff (CGS), Director-General of ISI, and Corps Commander, Rawalpindi, those people who owe their promotion as lieutenant-general to him and not to their former boss Gen Musharraf in his grasp. Those appointed to these slots as well as to the post of the DGMO are usually considered to be confirmed loyalists of the Army chief, the analysis concludes.