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Democracy's Way path of the Chief of Army Staff position in history

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17th May , 2010, Pakistan's defense minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar said that the government was "neither granting extension to chief of army staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani nor had the general sought it." Today,on July 22nd, it has been announced that Kayani has "accepted" the request by the civilian government for a 3 year extension to his tenure as Chief of Army Staff.

It goes without question that the military's role in Pakistan's government and politics has always been monumental. A case can be made that the civilian governments that have existed in Pakistan have never had the autonomy to rule without the threat of a military intervention. However,another angle that has never truly been appreciated or looked upon closely is the civilian government's role in the military, and more specifically its role with the history of the Chief of Army Staff position. The military entity of Pakistan, contrary to what some may believe, was not at its strongest in 1947( Uneven trade of arms with India, ill-equipped/trained soldiers, subject to British army chiefs till 51). Infact, scholars have claimed that the military and the civilian governments in the first decade of Pakistan's existence were not at extreme odds amongst one another. However, this balance has been commonly known to have been eliminated forever by 4 military coups( the first one starting at 1958).

Finding it myself that an unfair amount of emphasis has been focused on military's influence on democracy, and not on democracy/civilian government's influence on the military. Indeed, as I will show through historical examples, a case can be made that just as the military( and the COAS) led to the destruction of the balance between the civil and military institutions of Pakistan, the civilian governments have been no angels either. This will help us better understand how we should look at the PPP government's decision of extending Kayani's position as COAS.

Before anyone quotes on whether the CURRENT move by the government is correct or not, let us take a walk to the olden times of history lane to see the history of COAS( Chief of Army Staff) extensions.

The first General to start the "extension" phenomena was unsurprisingly our very first "Muslim" and native COAS, General Ayub Khan. He succeeded General Sir Frank Messervy and General Sir Douglas Gracey by becoming the Chief of Staff on January 16, 1951. Ayub Khan's background as a military strategist and as a member of the armed forces can best be described as suspicious. Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa, in her book "Military INC." stated that "Ayub Khan had received a bad ACR from his bosses prior to the partition of India and had become a general through machination." Major General Joginder Singh( who served in the Punjab regiment under Ayub Khan) stated that "Ayub Khan was not considered fit to command his parent Punjab Regiment and was relegated to serving in Chamar Regiment." At the time of independence, 9 officers were senior to Ayub Khan. Ayub Khan even concedes on pg. 20 in his book "Friends not Masters" that "I had little direct connection with the division of the armed forces." When Ayub became the first native COAS," he superseded two of his seniors, Maj Gen Muhammed Akbar Khan and Maj Gen N.A.M. Raza. Ayub Khan was promoted to C-in-C only due to the death of Maj Gen Iftikhar Khan.....Iskandar Mirza, Secretary of Defence, was instrumental in Ayub's promotion, commencing a relationship in which Mirza became Governor General of the Dominion of Pakistan and later President of Pakistan, when it became a republic on March 23, 1956. The events surrounding his appointment set the precedent for a Pakistani general being promoted out of turn, ostensibly because he was the least ambitious of the Generals and the most loyal."

It is also remarkable to note that Ayub Khan transformed from a Colonel to the COAS in a matter of 4 years. From 1951-1958, Ayub Khan enjoyed a large role in politics, as he served as Defense Minister in Pakistan from 1956-58( even though he was not a member of the parliament). It is of no surprise to me that Ayub Khan enjoyed the leisure of having extended his terms as COAS not once, but twice( officially at least). His background in the armed forces, combined by his colleague's account of his combat skills, make his tenure as COAS for 7 years very dubious. The Generals who preceded Ayub( even though they were British), had their terms last approximately 4 years combined. Meanwhile, if we do a comparison of India's COAS' after partition, we will find that not one of them had their term last 7 years, let alone 4.

All evidence shows Ayub Khan to not be the deserving COAS at the time of his appointment. It also connects his extensions as COAS to the democratic institutions. The civilian governments had a big role to play in Ayub Khan's extensions, and they kept him in check by providing him a civilian post( Defense Minister). The Civilian government ruined its own credibility by appointing a sitting member of the armed forces a position that only a member of the Parliament could possess. Civilian governments, or shall I say for a better punchline "Pakistani" democracy, shot itself in its own foot. Ayub Khan then dismissed the civilian government, and the rest is history.

A lot of other Generals have "extended" their tenures as COAS due to "popular demand by the people of Pakistan." However, a lot of them had their tenures extended when military rule was already in place. Thus, lets analyze those COAS who were NOT at odds with the civilian government.

General Tikka Khan served as COAS for 4 years under Zulfiqar Bhutto's regime. In 1971, when the army( influenced by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto) launched "Operation Searchlight" against East Pakistan and Mujeeb-ur-Rehman, he became unanimously known as "The Butcher of Bengal." General Niazi( who was instrumental as well in the military operation) described in his book " The Betrayal of East Pakistan" that General Tikka Khan "resorted to the killing of civilians and a scorched earth policy. His orders to his troops were: ' I want the land and not the people.'" General Tikka Khan would go on to serve as COAS from 72-76, and would also be appointed by Zulfiqar Bhutto as Defense Minister in 1977.

Owen Bennett Jones writes that General Karmat(96-98) " despairing of the sustained corruption and incompetence of the so called Sharif administration.... called for the establishment of a National Security Council." He was "forced to resignation" two days later by Nawaz Sharif. Nawaz Sharif would then appoint Musharraf as COAS over other senior officers. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto also appointed Zia Ul Haq as COAS, appointing him ahead of seven Senior Generals. Nawaz Sharif went into exile for 9 years, and Zulfiqar Bhutto was executed.

The civilian leadership has made several blunders in relation to the handling of the COAS position in Pakistan's history. Infact, a case can be made that they were the original detractors of the sacred bond that existed between the civilian and military entities of Pakistan. Civilian leaders continued support for COAS to further their own political ends has been striking. It has led to the chess game between democracy and military, as the governance of Pakistan has just become a parody of its original self( Objectives Resolution 1949).

General Kayani does have my respect. His apparent position on the civilian government's role in the future of Pakistan can only be highly respected. Similarly, he has led the army to an unprecedented anti-terrorist campaign in the history of Pakistan, which( at least in May 2009) united all Pakistani's against extremism. However, I will remain wary of his extension.

The Civilian Government( Iskandar Mirza) thought of Ayub Khan as complying enough to extend his term twice. Z Bhutto thought of Zia as a pious enough man to not destroy the civilian government. Nawaz Sharif thought that Musharraf would not challenge Sharif's domestic reforms and keep to himself.

History will not be on Kayani's side. I only hope history can prove this article wrong on what the thoughts are, but I thought we studied history so that we could live and learn from it. Judging by today, we are once again the Pakistan of 1958.

Source credit goes to

1. Eye of the Storm
2. Mosque and Military
3. Friends not Masters
4. Betrayal of East Pakistan
5. Military INC.

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  1. eViLrAcEr's Avatar
    @ Chamar Regimen

    and someone also said: "History repeats itself". In case of Pakistan, it's repeated thrice already and has started to repeat a 4th time.
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  2. ModMonsta's Avatar
    Actually I for one want history to repeat itself so that we can get rid of this corrupt government.
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  3. TheLivingFlesh's Avatar
    i agree with mod monsta!
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  4. afeef's Avatar
    Seriously Junaid bahi ? i know this article is about civil military relations but again kayani is the worst of all cheifs ,
    "General Kayani does have my respect" , I don't know how civilians sees him but in ARMY he is clearly known as JCO.
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    Updated 11-09-13 at 11:00 PM by afeef
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