Kayani’s personality transplant
Pakistan is a land of compulsive talkers and conspiracy theorists. People with the least understanding of issues manage to come across as the best informed.
Those who know the most, talk seldom. But when they do, they make sense.
The outcome in either case could be mere theory with no relation to truth. But the experience in lavish living rooms, over delicious meals and choicest drinks (yes, don’t be surprised), is exhilarating. At one such sitting during my recent visit to Lahore, I heard a man of “few words” speak up to share his views on Ashfaq Pervez Kayani’s controversial extension as Chief of the Army Staff.
He said Kayani’s was a “different mind” as the chela (understudy) of Gen. Pervez Musharraf. He’s a changed man now.
As it well known, Musharraf not only kept dialogue going with India. He took it beyond expected lengths to get within striking range of cracking of vexed issues, including Kashmir. What tripped the talkative general were his face-offs on the domestic front.
In contrast, Kayani, on succeeding Musharraf, let it be known that he shared very little of his liberal approach. He was India-centric but in a diametrically different sense. He also talked about strategic depth in Afghanistan with the ambivalence typical of somebody whose aura rested on his elusive ways. On both fronts, he wasn’t good news for New Delhi.
What made Kayani the best choice in a bad situation was his willingness to work with the US. Were he to demit office in November this year, the baton would have got passed to Lt. Gen. Khalid Shamim Wyne, who, as COAS, could’ve been less liberal than even Kayani.
Currently Chief of General Staff, Wyne retires in 2011. In fact, all except five Pak Lieutenants General, will demit office before Kayani who now stays till November 2013. The exodus will include nine corps commanders and three generals, including ISI chief Ahmed Shuja Pasha, who got a year’s extension in service.
“Wyne could have been more fanatical as Army Chief,” said the “Man Of Few Words.” He’s from the Punjab Regiment and fought wars in Siachen, Balochistan and the North West.
Another interesting gossip— very distinct from the lowdown on Gen.Wyne —- came from a Man About Town who claimed proximity to intelligence organizations and jehadi tanzeems. He charged New Delhi with faking opposition to the Taliban while opening secret contact with their leaders. He even gave out names of Taliban bosses whom some Indian officials met in Jeddah: Abdul Hayee Mutamin, Wakeel Mutawakil and Abdul Salam Zaeef. Mutawakil as we all known played a key role in the aftermath of the Kandahar hijack that saw the release of terrorists from Indian jails in exchange for passengers of the commandeered Indian Airlines aircraft.
“India also approached Mullah Baradar of the Afghan Taliban before the ISI arrested him in Karachi earlier this year,” alleged the Man About Town. Baradar was the Taliban’s second-in-command known for his proximity to Mullah Omar.
Sifting truth from gossip isn’t just difficult in Pakistan. It’s impossible.