Source: Ayesha Siddiqa Blog
One Karachi based Mr Seagul has been writing on the issue of higher defense management especially the comparative powers of the army chief versus that of the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staffs Committee. In a recent article the said gent proposed that the Chairman JCSC should get the power to sit on the promotion board and become part of the decisions to post senior officers. This, he believes, is meant to make a toothless Chairman powerful vis-a-vis the most powerful army chief. Whats happening here as our friend Mr Seagul is not known for doing things without being prompted from the ‘inside.’ Its not that he is a great intellectual when it comes to military matters. In fact, if some one insists on arguing that the article does not indicate a conspiracy then it will be fair to say that Seagul picked up this argument regarding the empowerment of the CJCSC from a common friend based in NYC who has far superior knowledge of the military than Soldier Seagul could (don’t forget that he was unceremoniously removed from the military due to his incompetence. He argues that this was done to him because of his mother being Bengali. The argument has earned him good links in the Bangladeshi security sector and allows Seagul to claim at home that the Bangladeshi armed forces will happily become an appendage to the Pak mil whenever the need arises).
Anyway, back to the question of what’s happening. Pakistan’s JCSC was established in 1976 as a result of an intellectual process started by the Bhutto government. The idea was to de-fang the army chief through empowering the other two service chiefs and making another four-start general. The Chairman JCSC was responsible for joint planning, etc. However, the fact that the new 4-star general had no troops to command made him as powerless as a transvestite. The imposition of martial law in 1977 ruined any possibility of the institution building up. General Mohammad Sharif, who was the first Chairman, complained that Zia-ul-Haq, who then became the President as well, killed the new organization. The fact that Lt. General KM Arif being the vice chief of army sat in the meetings to represent the chief was a travesty of the basic principle of equality between the three services that the JCSC was supposed to bring.
The army never liked the concept of the JCSC and tried to destroy it whenever it got an opportunity to do so. Not only that the Chairman JCSC was never consulted in the planning of major operations like Kargil, the army under Musharraf killed another principle of the head of JCSC to be appointed in rotation from all the three services. Honestly, Nawaz Sharif was the first one to dishonor this principle as he was the one who appointed Musharraf as the Chairman JCSC instead of the naval chief Fasih Bokhari just to buy some time from the army. Sharif thought he could appease Musharraf who had already declared his intent to go after the blood of Sharif brothers since he appointed his own favorite as the corps commander 10th corps which is responsible for most trouble-making coup-making activity. During the days after Musharraf’s take over, the internal army think tank produced papers supporting the idea of scraping the JCSC. Later, the idea was not entertained since the organization served the purpose of accommodating one army general without causing too many problems for the army chief and his empire.
But every now and then, the army toys with the idea of empowering the JCSC. The first time it happened was under General Mirza Aslam Beg. Since the then newly elected government of Benazir Bhutto had announced a few months in advance its choice of the next army chief – Asif Nawaz Junjua – Beg did not hope to get an extension and so he floated the idea of empowering the JCSC. Beg hoped that he could then lobby the political government to make him the Chairman. But he had to first convince his gang of 9+ generals to support an internal organizational change. His efforts were carefully and successfully blocked by the incoming army chief. Reports have it that General Junjua had the army chief’s office carefully bugged with the help of the then DG MI Javed Ashraf Qazi and the chief’s military secretary Brig. Zia-ud-Din But (the Nawaz Sharif fame). The idea was to keep an eye on Beg’s moves and push him out.
Now, the question is between Kiyani’s extension as army chief or his nomination as the Chairman JCSC. The army chief’s office is feeding its favorite journalists to plant stories arguing a case for Kiyani’s extension. However, the decision depends on three factors: (a) agreement within the GHQ, (b) support of the political government, and (c) nod from Washington, DC. Since Kiyani is the chief and knows how to work the internal ropes because of his tenure with the ISI, the first is not a major issue. The second can be slightly problematic due to bad blood between the PPP and the army. All efforts are being made to keep the PPP leadership on its toes. Not that the PPP government is efficient but the trouble on the streets could partly be artificial as well (in the spirit of keeping them anxious as long as a favorable decision regarding extension is not made). The army chief seems good on the third score except that the New York Time Square bombing plot may not bring him a lot of luck (it is also possible that Soldier Seagul might be touting this idea because his friends in Washington want him to argue for rationalizing the army’s power structure so that the war on terror could be fought better. After all, Soldier Seagul has a sharp nose for money and other benefits, and has little problem selling his tender soul). The US will only support Kiyani if he is considered as their man in Rawalpindi with the intent and capacity to deliver. However, if any of the three equations go wrong then Kiyani wants to play it safe and move to the position of the Chairman JCSC but not without some empowerment. general Kiyani is not interested in sticking his neck out for the military unless he is in a relatively powerful position. The powerless Chairman can only get some capacity if he begins to sit on the posting and promotion board of the military, especially the army. It goes without saying that Mr Seagul will not be caught with his pants down making such an argument in case Kiyani gets an extension. The general will not want anyone to challenge his authority as army chief. But if he is not in the ‘hot-seat’ he would want the organizational story to be written differently.
The golden principle in the armed forces is that the top brass takes care of its interests first. We are in May 2010 which means 7 months away from Kiyani’s retirement. Obviously, the General does not want to take chances and is deploying all tactics and resources, especially in the media, to build his case. the other golden rule is beware of North Punjabis. They are always sharp politicians. As for these ‘inner court’ battles, lets watch which side the sun rises!