`Zardari, Gilani appear terrified of Kayani`
Washington: Trying to appease Pakistan`s powerful Army Chief Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the Zardari-Gilani duo has used his term extension as an "insurance" for themselves, appearing "terrified" of him in the process, eminent author-commentator Ahmed Rashid says in his new book.
Rashid, who has closely watched the region and is considered quite an authority on Pakistan, says the country`s current civilian leaders have failed to use their terms to strengthen civilian institutions, by choosing to play to the tune of the Army.
In his upcoming book `Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan and Afghanistan` that will hit the stands on March 19, Rashid observes that Zardari committed a mistake by giving a three-year extension to Kayani.
"Both Zardari and Gilani appear to be terrified of General Kayani, and instead of using civilian power, such as the media and Parliament, to raise these issues, both men want to avoid riling the Army so they can have long and safe terms in office," he writes.
In his book running into more than 230 pages, Rashid says that Zardari and Gilani see Kayani`s three-year extension as an "insurance policy" for their own personal safety and for the survival of their regime, failing to learn from the country`s own history.
"Zardari calculates that because he did Kayani this favour, he will support Zardari`s re-election as President in 2013. But Pakistan`s history has proved that such assumptions are risky bets, because even the most loyal and subservient Army chiefs have turned against their political benefactors when the need has arisen," Rashid says.
Rashid, who has written several noteworthy books including `Descent into Chaos` and `Taliban` says the extension of Kayani`s term till 2013 and that of his ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, has angered many people, including some Army officers, who felt their promotions were now blocked.
Several others, he says, considered Kayani`s tenure as chief not particularly successful.
"Kayani had already given three other generals who were about to retire one-year extensions, and he had given two extensions to General Pasha -something that had never been done before.”
"An institution that had once been the byword for accountability now seemed to lack it altogether. Army officers viewed the extensions as sheer favouritism on the part of the Army chief," he writes.
He says Zardari has only made sure that by extending Kayani`s time in office he had rendered any political intervention or coup by Kayani controversial and problematic.
"He had also ensured that Kayani now owed his extra time in uniform to Zardari`s goodwill," he writes.
"At the time there were reports that Admiral Mullen had pushed for an extension for Kayani, but Mullen told me later that he had never tried to influence the decision. There is little doubt that his unprecedented extension in service seriously diminished his stature in the armed forces and among the politicians; Kayani felt less secure in ordering his troops into combat against the Taliban," Rashid writes.
However, in retrospect, the political leadership might well have been better off if it had brought in a new chief who may have improved relations with the US and redefined Pakistan`s attitude toward terrorism, Rashid feels.
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