WASHINGTON DC, October 2, 2004 | ISSN: 1684-2057 | www.satribune.com

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The new appointees: CJCSC Gen. Ehsan and VCOAS Gen. Ahsan

Musharraf Reshuffles Generals as Lord of the Ring

By M T Butt

ISLAMABAD, October 2: General Pervez Musharraf has made his move and like the Lord, swinging his lash in the middle of the Ring, he has thrown another five of his junta members out of the circus, promoting two others he thinks are more loyal to him than others.

The latest shuffle involves promotion of ISI Chief Lt. General Ehsan ul Haq to become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, replacing the most feared but controversial General Mohammed Aziz Khan, the man Musharraf projected in private sessions with American leaders as the fundo who may take over and reverse their war against the Islamic radicals.

In appointing General Ehsan, Musharraf not only demonstrated a blatant disregard but publicly degraded the Pakistan Navy Chief, Admiral Shahid Karimullah, who as a matter of seniority, should have been named the new Chairman of JCSC, a largely ceremonial post with no real authority or manpower to command.

But the other key appointment was made to replace the largely docile and obedient General Mohammed Yousuf, or Joe, the Vice Chief of Army Staff. His replacement would be the man who would take over the circus, or the country, should anything happen to the Ring Master.

This key appointment went to Corps Commander, Karachi, Lt Gen Ahsan Saleem Hayat, an officer of the Armored Corps who ranked number four in Pakistan Army’s seniority list. He has apparently been rewarded for the recent assassination attempt on his life in Karachi in which several others died but he survived.

Of the three officers senior to him and who are now expected to go home, one, Lt. General Hamid Javed, is already on an extension, while the other two, Lt Gen Munir Hafeez (currently heading the National Accountability Bureau) and Lt Gen Javed Hasan of AK regiment are scheduled to retire on October 30.

Thus having superceded them, means they will go home a few days before they were required to go in any case, unless of course they had proven to be more loyal to the King than others. It is now obvious Musharraf preferred others on these not-so-loyal colleagues.

Lt. Gen. Ehsan ul Haq, who will become a General and Chairman of JCSC on October 7, will feel his wings clipped as he was the pivot who ran the political, security and military show for General Musharraf as ISI Chief. He will have hardly anything exciting to do in his new position. He will miss the action more so because he was also head of the Military Intelligence before he was brought in as the trusted guy to replace almost disgraced Lt. General Mahmud, the man, who with Lt. Gen. Aziz, brought Musharraf to power but was sacked under US pressure.

While Musharraf himself is on his third extension as a General since 1998 when he was appointed Army chief by Nawaz Sharif, he has been constantly shuffling the pack of his commanders, as an astute commando who could not trust any one, for any extended time.

Since he took over on October 12, 1999, Musharraf has moved 38 commanders among the nine Army Corps, not allowing any General to settle down. Click to see the list

Six Generals have been brought in and kicked out of the most critical Rawalpindi Corps, or 10 Corps, being the closest to the nerve and power center of Islamabad. On average, in 5 years, six Generals came in and were moved out, thus no one was even allowed to complete a full one year.

Likewise five Generals each changed places in nearby Peshawar and Gujranwala Corps, four each were shuffled in and out of Mangla, Multan, Lahore and Bahawalpur Corps and three each at Karachi and Quetta Corps.

In short all the power players around Musharraf have been kept on the move, not allowed to settle down in one place lest they may start consolidating or plotting against the chief.

The latest reshuffle came within hours of Musharraf returning from his extended foreign trip to US and Europe as almost everyone was waiting, and speculating whether the last batch of the Generals who brought Musharraf to power while he was still in mid air would go out quietly and who may replace these loyalists who were ultimately out-maneuvered by Musharraf.

Even pro-establishment analysts and writers (Ikram Sehgal of the Defence Journal for one) were openly declaring that Musharraf’s main criteria in naming his Vice Chief will not be competence or merit but loyalty. Just a day before the shuffle, Sehgal wrote in The Nation: “One major factor is sacrosanct, the acid test for four-star selection will be personal loyalty to Pervez Musharraf.”

There is an irony in this acid test which all incumbents in the hot seat of power have either ignored or do not care about. Almost by design, all those who were appointed because they appeared to be the most loyal, turned out to be instrumental in throwing out their benefactors.

Examples can begin with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who thought General Zia ul Haq was his “chowkidar” (personal guard) as Zia would himself patrol the residence at nights where ZAB was staying. It was Zia who ousted Bhutto.

Zia named General Aslam Beg but did not directly face the situation, though many fingers still point at Beg as the man responsible for Zia’s C-130 crash.

Ghulam Ishaq Khan named General Abdul Waheed Kakar, superceding many seniors. It was Kakar who forced GIK and Nawaz Sharif to hand over their resignations at the height of the crisis in 1993.

Nawaz Sharif then appointed General Asif Nawaz and he so hated Nawaz that when he died it was universally believed that Nawaz Sharif and his IB Chief Brig Imtiaz had something to do with his death. Even his dead body was exhumed and tested for poisoning.

Sharif again appointed General Jehangir Karamat who called for setting up of the National Security Council and was forced to resign which led Sharif to name General Musharraf who then stabbed the man in the back.

So all these appointees were considered to be the most loyal to the men in power, at that given time, but turned out to be the villains.

Now Musharraf has selected his own loyalists after cleansing the Army of all those who brought him to power or shared it with him in some form for the last 5 years.

Yet Musharraf is not naïve and his next move would be to invite all these now retired colleagues for a drink at his home and offer them some lucrative position or a post where they could sit over money making machines.

The examples of Lt. General Mahmud Ahmed and Jehangir Karamat are recent examples, besides a horde of Generals who have now come to be known as the Directors of Pakistan Military Incorporated.

We will soon have some more ex-Generals turned corporate CEOs heading newly acquired civilian corporations.

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