In Pakistan, Negroponte courted Kiyani

November 21st, 2007 - 4:05 pm ICT by admin  

Islamabad, Nov.21 (ANI): When Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte visited Pakistan last weekend; he held three meetings with Pakistans Vice Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Ashfaq Kiyani, and ony one with President General Pervez Musharraf.
According to the Washington Post, Negroponte and Kiyani also shared a Saturday night dinner, and this probably affirms that he is potentially being seen as a vital ally to the Bush Administration.
“Use your influence. You can help save Pakistan,” Negroponte is believed to have told Kiyani during the visit, according to a Western diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Musharraf has repeatedly said he will step down from his army post. It remains unclear when he will do so.
If Kiyani is named successor, he will command Pakistan’s 600,000 troops and lead the country’s most important institution.
“To understand the power of Pakistan, you have to understand that it’s the military that matters. And they are kingmakers here,” said Shireen M. Mazari of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad.
“I don’t know if that implies that Kiyani can indeed influence Musharraf politically right now. But he may well do in the future, if history is an indicator,” Mazari added.
With the political uncertainty continuing in Pakistan, analysts say Kiyani is key to Musharraf’s own future
Few say Kiyani would attempt a coup because, for now at least, top military leaders would not support it. And Kiyani, 55, has his own reasons not to press Musharraf to lift emergency rule or resign as president.
“He won’t risk his own job, since time is on his side,” said Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani general who is now a political analyst.
Masood adds that “the U.S. emphasis is correct.”
“They have to cultivate him and make sure they get along well with each other, because if, down the road, the army feels their reputation is sinking along with Musharraf, well, that is when you have seen a change of power in Pakistan throughout history.”
Public support for Musharraf, who was installed in the presidency after a 1999 coup, has never been as low as it is now, following his decision November 3 to declare emergency rule, fire several Supreme Court justices and crack down on the news media.
On Tuesday, the Musharraf regime released more than 3,000 political prisoners who had been held under emergency rule, many of them lawyers.
But the Interior Ministry said 2,000 people remain detained. And in Lahore, a group of lawyers was briefly released and then arrested again.
Pakistan’s army was once the most popular institution in the country. Bumper stickers proclaimed, “Good Men Serve in the Pakistani Army.” Wars with India over Kashmir were a unifying factor against a common enemy.
But Musharraf and the troops he commands have lost support among many Pakistanis.
Throughout the recent turmoil, Kiyani has remained out of the political spotlight. Before becoming the armed forces’ No. 2, the general was head of the Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s spy agency, where he worked closely with senior CIA and Pentagon officials. He was given that post after investigating two assassination attempts against Musharraf in 2003; the appointment was seen as a reward.
Kiyani has working-class roots, having been raised in farming communities in the Punjab region, sometimes called the country’s “martial belt” because many teenage boys from the province enter the military, lacking other economic opportunities. He attended the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Colleagues say Kiyani is more knowledgeable about al-Qaeda than any other army general. He is said to have good relations with some of the country’s civilian political leaders, including former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, for whom he served as deputy military secretary.
Kiyani is known to show few emotions publicly and takes time to think over decisions, which analysts say could be a calming trait in the current political turbulence.
Nasim Zehra, a defense and security analyst in Islamabad, said that, “As a Pakistani, I have full confidence in Kiyani. He’s Pakistan’s professional soldier and not interested in power and politics. But the truth is, I would have said that about Musharraf in 1999.” (ANI)

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