Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Gen Raheel Sharif; the new Pakistan Army Chief

Gen Raheel Sharif; the new Pakistan Army Chief


The post of Chief  of Army in Pakistan , because of the dominant role of its military in Pak polity and the region , attracts lots of attention .The appointment of Gen Sharif was discussed earlier along with Lt Gen Rashid Mahmood , who will become the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.


"Rashad Mahmood and Raheel Sharif each built promising bureaucratic careers and have served in both command and staff positions, although it has been reported that neither has led troops against the Taliban."


This might be a positive in talks with Taleban and Jihadis.


Because of the traditional closeness of the armed forces in Turkey and Pakistan, I have followed the role of the military in both the countries with considerable attention and have written extensively and spoken on the subject.


.Gen Parvez Musharraf spent his schooling years in Ankara and has abiding regard for Kemal Ataturk, a general himself, who created a secular republic out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire following its collapse in WWI.


At the moment the hotheaded Islamist AKP leader Recep Erdogan has imprisoned hundreds of military officers including senior generals, even active ones .Armed forces in Turkey are stake holders and a blowback cannot be ruled out .Turkey's foreign policy has been a disaster and many internal problems like with Kurds, Alevis, even Armenians have emerged strongly. There is open disquiet in AKP over Erdogan's policies.


At the end I have given extracts from a 2003 piece on General Pervez Musharraf who had ousted PM Nawaz Sharif from power in 1999. Gen Musharraf is now under house arrest and charged with treason. The usual Pir –Mir fight for power as in most Sunni Muslim countries


 K. Gajendra Singh 27 November, 2013 .Delhi


Gen Raheel Sharif named as new Pakistan army commander


 On November 27 Pakistan announced the appointment of Lt Gen Raheel Sharif as its new army commander after weeks of speculation. He replaces Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, who retires on Thursday. Lt Gen Rashid Mahmood would be the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.


It appears that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has carefully considered the crucial appointment of Lt Gen Sharif - not related to him - since twice he was ousted by the military from his post.


In 1999 Sharif was ousted by Gen Pervez Musharraf. In 1993 army chief Abdul Waheed Kakar forced  Sharif to resign and hold elections in the wake of political stand-off between the prime minister and President Guam Ishaq.


Not much is known about Gen Sharif .His brother was one of the army's most decorated soldiers and was killed in the 1971 war with India. Gen Sharif is a career infantry soldier and is expected to continue Gen Kayani's policies and to avoid overt interference in politics.


"The officer carries with him a vast experience of command, staff and instructional appointments," Pakistan's Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement.


Before his promotion, he headed the army's training and evaluation department and has previously served in senior roles as a corps commander and head of the country's premier training institution, the Military Academy in Abbottabad.


For details see


URLs of two recent articles on Gen Kiani's successor are given below.


1.    Asia Times Online: Pakistan looks to fill Kiani's military boots


Nov 20, 2013 - With General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani leaving his post as Army chief, the country's civilian leaders are seeking a successor who can mirror his style...

2.    Retiring army chief set to extend power - Asia Times Online


Oct 7, 2013 - KARACHI - General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani, one of Pakistan's most powerful ... Sharif has to take the critical decision to appoint a successor to the...


RISE OF GEN PERVEZ MUSHARRAF –India's bete noire 12. 05. 2003

By K. Gajendra Singh




Who is Pervez Musharraf?

 Pervez Musharraf was born on August 11, 1943, in an old haveli (mansion) in Neharvali Gali (street) behind the Golcha cinema in Delhi.  When he was four years old, his family - mother and father and two brothers (his father hugging a box stuffed with a few lakhs of rupees) - migrated to Karachi in the new Pakistan soon after it became independent on 14 August, 1947.  

Non-Punjabi speaking immigrants from India (Urdu was the home language of the Musharrafs) are now mostly concentrated in the ghettoes of Karachi and nearby Hyderabad in Sindh, and are known as Mohajirs (a name preferred by them to that of "refugees") and they form over 8 percent of the population. They have been openly discriminated against by the ruling Punjabi-Pathan elite and have, therefore, established a political organization of Urdu-speaking migrants, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), in Karachi, whose leader, Altaf Hussain, now lives in London. But exiling powerful leaders in nothing new in Pakistan polity.  Starting with President Iskender Mirza, who was exiled by General Ayub Khan after the 1958 coup, the tradition has been kept up. Former Prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif are the latest examples.  

The Mohajirs, led by the Karachi-born Jinnah of the Ismaili Bohra community, who built up his legal practice and political career in Bombay, now Mumbai, were primarily responsible for the creation of Pakistan.  Being generally better educated, they had formed the ruling group in Pakistan's then capital city of Karachi before the new capital was built and power center moved up north to Islamabad in the heartland of the Punjabis, who form around 60 percent of the population.  

After spending six years in Ankara, where Pervez learned to speak and write Turkish fluently, he completed his further education in English medium schools in Karachi and Lahore.  He joined the Pakistan Military Academy in 1962 and finished second in the class after Quli Khan.  The military has always been a coveted profession in Pakistan, but its officer class has traditionally been dominated by Punjabis, with the Mohajirs actively discriminated against.  Nevertheless, Musharraf proved himself loyal and diligent, especially with regard to Pakistan's anti-India policy.  

Other members of the Musharraf family have sought greener pastures outside Pakistan.  Except for his married daughter, Ayla, an architect, who lives in Karachi, the oldest brother, Javed, is an economist with the International Fund for Agricultural Development in Rome. Another brother, Dr Naved Musharraf, is based in Illinois, US, and is married to a Filipino.  Musharraf's son, Bilal, an actuary, is settled in Boston, US, and even his mother and father, who passed away a few months after Musharraf took over, had become naturalized US citizens.  

Raised by parents who were moderate in their religious outlook, modern and almost secular in outlook and well educated (his mother had a master's degree in literature from Delhi and had worked for the International Labor Organization in Karachi), Pervez's catholic outlook was reinforced by his stay in Ankara.  Outgoing and extrovert, Musharraf is a caring family man, but somewhat authoritarian.  After a normal retirement as a lieutenant-general, Musharraf would have perhaps divided his time between Pakistan and the US. Even now, whenever he visits USA on official visits, he spends time with Bilal in Boston, but still utilizes the time to promote the cause of Pakistan.  

Destiny's wheel

But destiny had other plans for Musharraf.  Two things happened that catapulted him to the top of the heap.  A thoughtless and erratic prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, who twice came into power in the musical chairs with Benazir Bhutto - conducted by the Pakistan military after the death of dictator General Zia ul-Haq in 1988 in an air crash - started to go haywire after his 1997 election victory.  After getting a two-thirds majority, with an abysmal turnout of less than 30 percent, an arrogant Sharif amended the constitution, stripping the president of the power to dismiss the government and made his power to appoint military service chiefs and provincial governors contingent on the "advice" of the prime minister.  

Worse, in a rush of blood, he forced into early retirement General Musharraf's predecessor, General Jahangir Karamat, an able and apolitical general.  Gen Karamat, after a lecture at the Pakistan Defense Academy, in response to a question, had only expressed the need for a National Security Council (NSC) in view of the introduction of nuclear weapons into Pakistan's arsenal. But the armed forces took a serious note of the insult.  

Sharif, whose family is of Indian Punjab origin and now settled in Lahore, was a small-time businessman.  He was groomed (along with many other middle class Punjabis) by General Zia (also from Indian Punjab) as a reliable rival to the Sindhi Benazir Bhutto, and other feudal political leaders. Sharif had promoted Musharraf in October 1998 to chief of Army staff, ahead of many others including Gen Quli Khan.  He thought that being a Mohajir without a Punjabi support base he would not have any Bonapartist ambitions. Perhaps Musharraf would have faded away after completing his term. 

But at a time when the economic situation at home was dismal, in another rush of blood and hoping to gain absolute power and popularity, Sharif dismissed Musharraf and attempted to replace him on October 12, 1999, with a family loyalist, the Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lieutenant-General Ziauddin.  Although Musharraf was out of the country in Sri Lanka at the time, the army was prepared this time and moved quickly to depose Sharif in a bloodless coup.  After Musharraf took over, Sharif was charged with attempted murder and other crimes.  

One of the reasons why Sharif wanted to get rid of Musharraf was that the latter had led the Pakistani forces in the debacle at Kargil, in the summer of 1999.  Infiltrators from Pakistan occupied Kashmir had clandestinely occupied the remote mountainous area of Kargil in Kashmir, threatening even the ability of India to supply its forces on the Siachen Glacier.  Serious fighting flared up, but the infiltrators had to withdraw after a Washington meeting between Sharif and then US president Bill Clinton in July.  Sharif was severely embarrassed by the incident, although he appeared to be in the loop and would have happily reaped the benefit of popularity if the Kargil misadventure had succeeded.  

Two days before the coup, the Washington Post had noted that "analysts said (that) Sharif has little idea how to restore confidence in a government that has lost credibility at home and abroad - this deeply unpopular government is facing its worst crisis since early 1997".  A Gallup Poll taken a day after Musharraf seized power revealed that most Pakistanis wanted an unelected, interim government of "clean technocrats" to rule for at least two years.  Even Benazir Bhutto said, "He [Musharraf] was a professional soldier and I thought he was very courageous and brave.  He'd been a commando and one who is a commando can take tremendous risks and think afterwards."  

A Pakistani editorial welcomed the coup, "This is perfectly understandable.  The political record of the last decade of 'democracy' is dismal. Benazir Bhutto blundered from pillar to post during 1988-90. Nawaz Sharif plundered Pakistan (1990-93) as if there were no tomorrow.  Then Benazir was caught, along with her husband, with her hands in the till instead of on the steering wheel. So Sharif returned to lord it over a bankrupt country.  Then, obsessed with power, and emboldened by an illusion of invincibility, he went for the army's jugular and paid the price for his recklessness."  

Turkish connection;  

At his very first press conference soon after taking over as Pakistan's chief executive, General Musharraf spotted some journalists from Turkey. Speaking in fluent Turkish, Musharraf told them that he was a great admirer of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic and its first president.  "As a model, Kemal Ataturk did a great deal for Turkey. I have his biography. We will see what I can do for Pakistan. " Not only is he more at home with Turkish than Pakistan's national language, Urdu, Musharraf also admires Turkey's generals and the country's political model, having spent his most impressionable school years in  early 1950s in Ankara, where his father was posted as a junior diplomat.  Ataturk's legend of forging a new, vibrant, modern and secular Turkey out of the ashes of the decaying deadwood of the Ottoman Empire left an indelible mark on young Pervez, as evidenced by his remarks above and his subsequent actions as the leader of Pakistan.

However, following his statements lauding Ataturk, the Jamaat-i-Islami, the largest of Pakistan's religious parties, immediately expressed its opposition to the secular ideology of Kemalism. As a result, Musharraf now also highlights the aborted vision for Pakistan of Qaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the country's founding father and its first leader after independence in 1947.  Therefore, it came as no surprise when Musharraf visited Ankara in November, 1999, within weeks of taking power, on a pre-coup invitation from Turkey's military chief of general staff, who happened to be away when the Pakistani general landed in Ankara. Musharraf s main objective was to meet with General Kenan Evren, who had carried out the 1980 coup.  But Musharraf found himself a most unwelcome guest because both President Suleyman Demirel and Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, now back in power, had been imprisoned and debarred from politics after Evren's coup.  They advised Musharraf to restore democracy at the earliest possible.  

The influential Turkish Daily News, close to Demirel, castigated the visit as "untimely and unnecessary so soon after grabbing power and jailing elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The coup in Pakistan or one in any other country can never be accepted.  Despite the role of the military in public life in Turkey the general failed to realize the sensitivity Turks feel towards coups and authoritarian rule.  He seemed to forget that Turks have now found out that coups have not solved the problems of the country and that, to the contrary, they have further complicated things. The way the general praised former coup leader General Evren was unnecessary."  

Discouraged from seeing Gen. Everen, Musharraf met his old friends in Ankara and lunched with the chief of protocol, an old school mate. Musharraf did concede before leaving that all countries must find their own solutions. –

At best Musharraf can be said to have succeeded in emulating his publicly undeclared model Gen Evren and that too not that well. There are some similarities with Ataturk.  Delhi-born Musharraf's family comes from east Uttar Pradesh (India). Blue-eyed Ataturk was born in Salonika (Greece) and his family came from Macedonia.  Ataturk was able to rally the world war-weary Turks, whose land had been occupied by foreigners.  At first he battled the Ottoman Sultan's forces sent to kill him and then vanquished friend turned foe rebel Ethem and his ragtag army, which had helped fight off invading Greeks who had almost reached Ankara. This was something like the various jihadi forces and foot-loose groups that Musharraf now faces. Later, Ataturk ruthlessly crushed religious revolts led by feudal Kurdish tribal chiefs and others.  And to fulfill his destiny, he even got rid of his earlier nationalist comrades, who were in favor of continuing with the Caliphate. 

Musharraf, too, has succeeded in sidelining many unreliable generals but not completely. Despite his belief in his avowed destiny, his proclaimed good luck in escaping helicopter mishaps, not being in the plane crash that killed Zia and victory in the standoff with Sharif, he has not shown the boldness and ruthlessness of Ataturk.  September 11 and December 13, provided him with a golden opportunity to go the whole hog in the fight against the virus of fundamentalism and usher a new era in Pakistan on the lines of Ataturk's reforms.  He would have got unstinted support from US led West, India and others. 

Ataturk had boldly and ruthlessly carried out westernizing and modernizing reforms against religious obscurantism and dogma and forged the remnants of the Ottoman Empire with a 99 percent Muslim population into a secular republic in the 1920s.  The Ottoman Sultan was also the Caliph .He abolished both the offices. But he had kept his external ambitions in check, he did not claim former Ottoman provinces lost in World War I, and had concentrated on building a new Turkey from the bottom up. 

Musharraf, a child of his times, did step down, after September 11, from the fundamentalist tiger he was riding and had helped nurture. Quite clearly he is not fully in command on the home front, with suicide bombers killing foreigners and Christians and senior officials being assassinated.  He tightens up from time to time, with some arrests of ranking Al-Qaeda members and others to please USA.  If he tried too hard, these forces, now baying against him, would conspire for his blood and threaten his US allies.

Musharraf's childhood Ataturk-inspired dream is unlikely to come true. Perhaps he is not ruthless enough, determined and single minded like Ataturk, or maybe there are just too many cards stacked against him. "