Thursday, November 29, 2007

Musharraf Goes Civilian

Pakistan's President General Pervez Musharraf has resigned his post as Army Chief of Staff in order to become a civilian.

In the New York Times, Carlotta Gall and Jane Perlez write that the change of status leaves Musharraf "with vastly reduced powers" though he is "likely to retain much of his old power"... but only for a while... maybe...

For Musharraf, Reduced Power as the President
A day after resigning as army chief, Pervez Musharraf will be sworn in as a civilian president on Thursday, leaving him with vastly reduced powers and Washington with a far more complex Pakistan to deal with...

Though finally stepping down as army chief, he is likely to retain much of his old power as a civilian president, fortified by his emergency decree on Nov. 3, and loyalists he chose at the top of the military, according to Pakistani officials and analysts.

But in fairly short order, Mr. Musharraf, who plunged the nation into political turmoil with his emergency decree and has been a sometimes frustrating partner in Washington’s fight against terrorism, will become a diminished figure, they said, a civilian president in a country where traditionally the power lies with an elected prime minister, or the military chiefs who have overthrown them.
The new military chief is General Ashfaq Kayani [right in photo], a former head of Pakistan’s notorious Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

The NYT continues:
Though General Kayani is considered loyal to the president, the real levers of power will pass to him, and he is believed to favor removing the army from the center of politics, they said. “Kayani is loyal to Musharraf, but also to Pakistan,” one Western military official said.

And as much as Washington has supported Mr. Musharraf, having a chief of the army on the job full time is a change likely to be welcomed. Bush administration officials have already praised General Kayani as someone they can work with.
The phrase "work with" is quite often a euphemism, by the way. And "removing the army from the center of politics" normally means the same as getting the army out of the spotlight.
General Kayani, an infantry commander and a graduate of the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, which he attended in 1987 and 1988, has been described by Western diplomats and military officials as well liked and by far Pakistan’s most capable commander.

He has already played a prominent role in cooperating with the United States. He was promoted to full general and made vice chief of Army Staff in October. He immediately visited units serving on the front lines in Pakistan’s tribal areas, and said that sorting out the difficulties plaguing western Pakistan was a priority, a Western military official said.
Pakistan's Daily Times cut to the heart of the matter:

Top military change won’t affect war on terror commitment: FO
The Foreign Office said on Wednesday that the change in the top military command would not dent Pakistan’s role in the US-led war on terror.

“There would be no shift in the war on terror due to President General Pervez Musharraf’s doffing of uniform … it has nothing to do with the war on terror policy,” Foreign Office spokesman Muhammad Sadiq said at a weekly press briefing.
Ever since 9/11 the US has been paying Pakistan about $100 million a month to "defer the costs" of fighting the war on terror.

Now the new hand on the tiller -- or is that the till? -- belongs to General Kiyani, who is "loyal to Musharraf" but also "loyal to Pakistan" and also a former head of the ISI and also trained by Americans who now say he's the kind of guy they can work with.

And apparently General Kiyani is telling the Americans: Keep that money coming, and we'll keep spending it for you!

So he certainly is the kind of General they can "work with".

And now that Pervez Musharraf has "doffed the uniform," everyone can see what he had on underneath it.

Guess what?

Big surprise!

A business suit!!