Pakistan media, experts welcome army changes

October 1st, 2008 - 3:34 pm ICT by IANS  

TalibanIslamabad, Oct 1 (IANS) The Pakistani media and military experts Wednesday welcomed the top level changes in the army, particularly the appointment of a new spymaster, a demand the Americans have been making for some time.On Monday, Kayani reshuffled the army command, changing four of the nine corps commanders and naming a new chief of the general staff and also a new head of the feared Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), often called a state within a state.

Lt Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha, who replaced Lt Gen Nadeem Taj as the ISI director-general, has been overseeing operations against the Taliban in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan and parts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) for the last two years.

Experts and anchors remarked on talk shows on television channels that this would bring in a positive change because the army chief, General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani, will now have his own team.

Kayani made the sweeping changes in the army for the first time since his appointment in December 2007 and after Pervez Musharraf stepped down as president in August this year.

“These are routine transfers and promotions but in a country like ours such news makes big headlines as there are some reasons behind them,” said military expert Hasan Afridi.

Talking to IANS, Afridi said that traditionally the military chiefs carried on the legacy of their predecessors. But since Musharraf was the army chief and the country’s ruler, this may have forced the new command to bring in the changes.

“The changes signify confidence in the army chief’s ability to shed the Musharraf baggage and place men of his choice in key positions,” the Daily Times said in an editorial Wednesday.

The paper said that Gen Kayani had been supportive of the democratic government and the change in the ISI’s stewardship had been done with the approval of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

“I think the new (ISI) chief will able to win the confidence of the US-led allied forces in Afghanistan on information sharing,” said Islam Habib, a professor of defense studies.

He said that while these may be routine postings at one level, certainly “it carries significance as the step was taken when President Asif Zardari was negotiating with the Americans” on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

The US has been insisting that the ISI needs a new chief, alleging that a section of the agency continued to maintain friendly ties with the Taliban in Afghanistan while publicly professing to fight against it.

According to news reports, some ISI bosses are against ditching the Taliban or the separatists in Kashmir - in the hope that they can be used against Kabul and New Delhi if the global situation changed again.

The Daily Times hoped that under the changed circumstances and with a new set of commanders, the ISI and the army should be able to concern themselves solely with national security issues.

A Dawn editorial said the change of guard at the ISI would attract attention because it formally required the approval of Gilani, under whose constitutional tutelage the spy agency is supposed to function.

“If Gilani had so wished, Gen Taj would have continued to remain in place. But this hasn’t happened because Gen Kayani wanted it otherwise and the prime minister had no objection,” said the paper.

Gilani has been critical of the intelligence establishment in general.

Gilani had tried to put the ISI under the interior ministry but the ISI successfully resisted the move.

After the Marriott Hotel blast Sep 20 in Islamabad, Gialni had one more reason to complain about the failure of the intelligence agencies to fight terrorism in the country.

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