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Monday, July 26, 2010

General Kayani’s Extension :Brigadier F.B Ali

(This is an original piece written for pakpotpourri2)  
The 3-year extension of Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s term as army chief has aroused considerable comment. Many media pundits have pontificated gravely, using many words to say little. Others have criticized what they term a sell-out due to personal ambition. Quite a few well-meaning people have expressed regret that he did not follow the example of Gen Abdul Waheed (Kakar) and decline the offer. In view of the outsized role that the army chief plays in Pakistan, it matters a great deal what lies behind his acceptance of the extension. 

One obvious reason why anyone would willingly choose to continue presiding over Pakistan’s deadly downward spiral is that they are either a super-crook (like President Zardari) or a super-buffoon (like Prime Minister Gilani). Since Gen Kayani is neither a villain nor an idiot, we must look elsewhere. Another possible reason could be that he believes that no one else could steer the country safely through the treacherous shoals of the geopolitical and military conflicts roiling the region, as he has done for the last few years. The crowd of sycophantic courtiers that usually collects around powerful men in Pakistan makes it easy for them to believe such things. However, the general is reputed to be a simple, down-to-earth person ‒ and intelligent.

Thus, for the many who are desperately worried about the future of the country, there are some grounds to hope that he accepted the extension because he feels the need to do more than what he has done in his present tenure. Because he realises that, if he merely continues in his past role, down the road he may find himself one day commanding an army without a country. Or, that there could come about such a transformation in both army and country that they bear no resemblance to what they are now, likely followed thereafter by neither army nor country remaining.
Surely, Gen Kayani can see that the country is unravelling before his eyes. With this happening, what use is it to merely strengthen the army, or fight extremists, or manoeuvre cleverly around foreign friends and enemies? So far, he has been very circumspect about stepping outside the military sphere or that of national security (while firmly resisting any attempts by others to intrude into them). He rightly sees that the newly restored political process must be allowed to continue and gain strength and momentum, and that any heavy-handed military intrusion would be extremely detrimental in the long run. The dilemma he faces is that, left to their own devices, the people running the political process will run it, and the country, into the ground.
There is a way out of this dilemma. It is possible to stop this relentless slide downward without touching the political process, political structures or even a single politician. The two major (and related) causes of Pakistan’s breakdown are terminal misgovernance and megacorruption. In its terminal stage, misgovernance results in not only the absence of all governance but also the creation of centrifugal forces that tear apart the fabric of the country and its people. Megacorruption is very different, in both nature and effect, than ordinary corruption. It is the systematic looting of the country’s wealth and resources (both present and future) by those at the helm of affairs.
To save Pakistan, the essential pre-requisite is to put a stop to both these evils. It can be done ‒ and without touching the hair of any politician!
In every democratic country, there are two basic rules of governance. The first is that the politicians in power make government policy, while the civil service executes these policies within established laws and rules, andwithout political interference. To ensure that this works, the second rule is that the service conditions of civil servants (their hiring, promotions, assignments, etc) are insulated from political control and influence. (Dictators obviously don’t like this; that is why one of the first steps of ZA Bhutto, upon becoming President and CMLA in 1971, was to rescind the second rule. That is when the rot began).
If General Kayani wishes to end Pakistan’s terminal misgovernance, he has to get the government rules of business changed to reflect the first rule of governance in a democracy. To implement the second rule, the federal and provincial public service commissions should once again be given control of their respective civil services, as they used to have once. To achieve these he will need to exert some heavy pressure behind the scenes. He has done that before, when he felt the country faced a serious emergency or national security was at risk. This crisis is worse than any previous one, and national security is much more seriously at risk than it was then. Achieving these goals would not disrupt any valid political process, nor would it (publicly, at least) touch any politician.
Dealing with megacorruption would be a more delicate matter. Of course, ending the worst of misgovernance would automatically reduce it significantly. But the addiction is too firmly entrenched among the present rulers to end on its own. The most discreet method of sending the right signals is for the military to repeat the ‘Riaz Lalji tactic’ a few times. Politicians indulge in megacorruption through intermediaries and agents, who are well known to the ISI. If, every time some big ‘deal’ was being cooked up, the agent was escorted to a quiet place and given some friendly advice, the word would spread quickly, leading to a marked reduction in this profession’s numbers. And, all without mussing any political hair.
Those who have expressed regret that Gen Kayani did not follow the example of Gen Abdul Waheed focus on a minor aspect of his actions. Yes, he did refuse an extension, but he did that only after he had stopped the country’s slide into a crisis, and set it on a path to recovery (without gaining anything personally). It is this example that one hopes Gen Kayani is really following. Gen Waheed’s actions were a remarkable display of patriotism and personal character. It is sad that his shining example is largely forgotten while the despicable roles of adventurers or clowns like Ayub, Yahya, Zia and Musharraf figure so prominently in the recounting of Pakistan’s tragic 60-year history.

(The writer is a retired member of the armed forces).


  1. The author is correct about the no-nonsense profile of COAS. I think Gen Kayanis leadership was key to the success in the fight against terrorism, continuation of leadership at this crucial juncture was needed. As for F B Ali's suggestion to Kiyani on correcting the issues of misgovernance,these are misdirected as it will make him step out of the realm of his responsibilities.It is not a COAS's task.

  2. Gen Kayani is a good soldier.
    He is most acceptable to USA.
    I hope this is the BEST thing for PAKISTAN.

  3. General kiyani's extension has many dimensions.First PPP has tried to ensure its stay in power for 5 years.Second Army has got more time to take a decision.Third Americans want Kiyani to continue.Fourth in absence of a good political leadership,Pakistan needs a sensible person to take charge when things go awry like Long March for reinstatement of Chief Justice and Suprior Judiciary.Fifth of couse as said:misgovernance and megacorruption.

  4. There is an excellent real-life example occurring in Canada these days of how a civil servant should behave in a democracy. And, remarkably, the bureaucrat in question is a Canadian of Pakistani origin - Munir Sheikh.

    To read about it, see:

  5. Very candid and very thought provoking article !
    I think the author is right that Gen Kayani has already been doing that kind of 'fire brigade' role, of course WITHOUT blowing the loud horns (like at the time of restoration of Judiciary). He has proven to be a prudent, patriotic, non-ambitious and a down-to-earth professional soldier who knows what is good for himself, for Pak Army and for Pakistan. His conduct and approach so far has been absolutely clear and correct.
    The ideas put forward by Brig F. B. Ali are very relevant, (in fact, need of the hour) to the situation in Pakistan. The problems of governance and corruption do need to be addressed in a manner as suggested by the author, which even though might look a little unconventional. Gen Kayani's patriotism and prudence, coupled with his support to the Chief Justice of Pakistan's uphill toil, could perhaps, result in putting the country back on the rails.

  6. The point on question of corruption & misgovernance are all relevant, but IS the COAS the person for it?IF he is, why has he not twisted arms to date?
    Will Brig F B Ali please respond?

  7. I had shared the article with some friends, here are 2 inputs. They were unable to post directly:
    1-The Brig. is a very junior person to comprehend and asses the reasons behind historically weak political and military decisions behind Pakistan’s downfall. The overall pressures on the General (Kayani) are too overwhelming to allow him to quit, while the internal corridors of power are equally bearing a considerable influence on him to accept the proposition.....To the politicians the General is a thorough professional who would retain the role of portraying the army as a third force to mend national and geographical security of its borders..........No fear of Martial Laws, emergencies etc. The foreign interests have found him to be an un-witting ally of foreign vested interests in Pakistan due to lack of political and strategic vision.........So far He has been a Yes Man or Easy Hand for all vested interests.....So the argument goes on to retain the “Matha General “ to carry on his professional role without challenging the corrupt and weak political hierarchy of the country.

    Only time will tell if the General has balls enough to challenge a corrupt and incapable government sucking on the national coffers on one end and compromising the sovereignty of the country on the other.

    Wamiq R. Khan

    2-Dear friends,

    I tried posting my comment on the blog but gave up. Here is my take on F.B. Ali's piece.

    This guy is obviously a closet Bonapartist...lionizing Gen. Kiyani as a super" savior" of Pakistan. The Brig's suggestion that Gen Kiyani should reign in the misgovernance is utter nonsense and a misplaced recommendation. This is not the army's role, punto... At PMA Kiyani elected to be a soldier and most importantly swore to protect and cherish the Constitution. This Constitution asks soldiers to follow the command of their political bosses not to reform them...good , bad or ugly!!

    Actually, one is amazed why the extension of the COAS is a cause celebre in Pakistan, why the PM should have to make a public announcement , and why this overt rejoicing?? why does the army have such a central role in the psyche of our Nation?? Have they not wrecked enough catastrophes on us besides amassing tons of wealth. We talk about accountability why cant we start with probing fat cat generals??? Or are they the " brahmins' who can act with total impunity?

    My underlying message to Brig Ali: for Gods sake give democracy a least we can vote the political class out but generals have a tendency to reincarnate !!

    Owaise Saadat

  8. I am in receipt of yet another comment:
    Dearest Laila This article is written by an INTELLIGENT and a SAVVY person... I agree with every word of it Please post my comments Thanks Arif Khan

  9. The only thing the extention ensures is that the present government will continue till 2013. It is rotten to the core and has polluted and exploited every sphere of national activity. Whatever the integrity and capabilities of Gen. Kayani, which are commendable, there is no way that he can eradicate misgovernance or megacorruption as a CAS.

    We have in the last two years seen the perforamnce of the present government going from bad to worse and in real tangible terms what has Gen. Kayani done to control the down slide. Nothing which provided relief to the common man. Why should we think that he would be able to do it in the next three years.
    I am afraid I do not agree with the expectations and hypothesis of Brig. F.B. Ali. Gen. Kayani is a mere mortal . Ask him to do something humanly possible. Only an act of God can save the people of Pakistan.

    July 27, 2010 7:12 PM

  10. In response to the various comments on my article:

    Thank you to all those who liked the piece.

    Many people seem too used to writers making pronouncements and giving their own opinions on various topics. I was not doing that.

    I was trying to analyze what may have been the reason behind Gen Kayani's acceptance of the extension. I concluded that there were some grounds to hope that he might want to do more in national affairs than he had done in his first term. I then suggested what he could do that would make a real difference, and how it could be done without upsetting the current political process. (Yes, Chipmunk, it is "humanly possible"; in fact, these are things he has already done in a limited fashion).


    Please tell your friend that I was a Brigadier when Gen Kayani was a cadet in the PMA. That senior enough for him? In any case, what has seniority got to do with it?

  11. My two obseravtions:
    We always talk this will happen this will be done etc which never happened so far claimed by our Political leadership.Like Elec loadsheding which will be resolved in times to come? Similarly it is over estimatedly is being claimed that Terrorism has been controlled. I will just say that wait and see for three years then say is it all over?
    I will give full Marks to Governmet if they can manage fencing Afghan-Pak Border otherwise this wound of Terrorism will never be sealed to have peace in Pakistan.
    Secondly my obsevation is that the manner in which it was announced did not go with a good taste and why for three years.It should have been extended each year as per rules and custom in service???

  12. I did tell him Brig Ali.
    Here is another comment from the same gentleman:
    I think you might be interested in reading the cover page of Dawn today......His request for extension comes directly from the the senior most representative of the White House Hillary Clinton in this case. Dear Lady the age of the Generals do not make them competitive enough to be good political analysts and the failed coup attempt also explains my view that he is not even good at what ever he was trained for.

    I am taking the liberty of posting the discussion on this forum for comments and since I had responded to your mail on this forum I would suggesting that you refrain from putting comments coming out of this forum on other sites which would be tantamount to disregarding privacy rules and ethical conduct.

    I hope other members of this forum would agree with my view point.

    Wamiq Khan

  13. Brig F B Ali is neither a junior officer nor an ordinary person. He is one of the most capable soldiers and most patriotic sons of soil produced by this country.

  14. A realistic article. The way country is going downhill, any other Army general would have intervened to put things right. However, Gen Kiani is more sane and reasonable person. Right now we all know that there is no such thing as governance in the country. As our history goes, by now someone would have staged a coup. Allah knows if there ever was a solid case to overthrow the Govt, this is it. However, Gen Kianis has decided to continue to do what the Army does best, being the only organized unit in the country. Not will to derail democracy, he has opted to let the politicians do what they do best ie. misgovern and rob the country. THIS is something even the Govt knows and despite being most corrupt and incompetent rulers ever, they do not wish to kill the goose that lays golden eggs---all our politicians do not have property and black money abroad. They rest are willing to continue to0 get petty perks but not willing to destroy the country. The present procedure of running the country seems the only option and hence it is logical to let Kiani continue.

  15. Having read the article and all the comments, I want to contribute the following thought, for whatever it’s worth:

    When confronted with a problem, progress can only be made towards resolving it if one takes a constructive approach, analysing the problem and trying to come up with a solution. This act is in itself commendable, since it requires a sincere and heartfelt concern for the problem. Comments on FB Ali’s article, therefore, should focus on additional or alternate suggestions so that the discussion can move along in a productive atmosphere. A suggestion can be useful, partly useful, or not at all suited to the situation. The only way to deal with an initial proposal is to rationally assess it and to offer logical argument for or against it. Reading some of the comments, I feel that the logical component has been overtaken by a personal element. Pakistan is currently facing serious dilemnas, and its very existence as a nation seems to be at stake. Some might think it fear mongering or too far fetched to state it in these terms. I would remind them that a similar refusal to see the writing on the wall was demonstrated in 1970-71, when the misgovernance of East Pakistan was creating an explosive situation. I suggest that in order for a consensus to emerge, the focus should be on a well thought-out discussion of the problem itself, leaving aside comments of a personal nature. That way there might at least be the possibility of achieving a useful solution, at least on paper!
    Najeeb Khan - Toronto