Ashfaq Kayani

Former Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan

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  • In-Country Power
  • International Power
  • Respect
  • Military Strength
  • Intelligence
  • Special Skill: Weapons Watchdog

Official Stats

  • Official Title: Former Chief of Army Staff
  • Government: Newly established democracy
  • Years Left in Office: Indefinite
  • Political Classification:
  • Education: Army colleges in Pakistan & US
  • Age: 65 (born April 15, 1952)

Ashfaq Kayani Facts and Information

The Rundown

Yeah, they got a President, and they got a Prime Minister…but if you want who actually is the most powerful person in Pakistan, then get acquainted with Ashfaq: Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, that is. Kayani is usually described as intelligent and well-respected, yet unassuming and quiet, as well as straight-forward and incorruptible, and apparently he is a hell of a golfer to boot! (Seriously! He was the President of the Pakistan Golf Association!) Not bad descriptors for any leader of any country, much less a country that is as notoriously corrupt, troubled, and plagued as Pakistan. Quite frankly, I think General Kayani is hands down the most powerful player in Pakistan, for all policies, both foreign and domestic, and one of the most powerful peeps in the world!

Really? He is that important? Well, the General is the head honcho of Pakistan’s armed forces, the guardian of it’s nuclear arsenal (the world’s 5th largest), the ultimate commander of campaigns against insurgents of all stripes within Pakistan, and also the dude in charge of the supportive role that Pakistan plays with the US/NATO war on terror in neighboring Afghanistan…yep; this one guy calls all the shots (pun intended) in virtually everything happening militarily and even politically in this crucial country of the sub-continent. And he doesn’t get pushed around by anyone…including the US. Oh, and given Pakistan’s history, there is every possibility that this dude may end up as the official political leader of the country too. So let’s get to know the main Pakistani man a little more in-depth…

Apparently he was born to be a military man: Kayani is the son of a sergeant-major in the Pakistani Army, and from one of the largest and most powerful clans in Punjab Province—which is a giant arid region in the northwest known for producing Pakistani generals. After graduating from army colleges in Quetta and Islamabad, Kayani was commissioned as a second lieutenant in August 1971…joining active service just in time to witness Pakistan’s humiliating defeat to India in a 13 day war that occurred later that year: an experience that certainly shaped his character to the present day.

In other words, the top military dude in Pakistan is the proto-typical Pakistani harboring a life-long grudge against the ultimate enemy named India…regardless of whatever other conflicts or challenges the state may be involved with.  The good news is, that thus far he has shown patience, sanity and a steady hand with the Indian challenge, and let’s all hope that attitude lasts. But back to his background….

Kayani attended courses at two prestigious American military academies, the infantry school at Fort Benning, Georgia, and the Army Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, a background that allows him to confer easily with his American counterparts. And of course that has to happen quite a bit since the US has a huge relationship with Pakistan, donates billions of dollars a year to Pakistan, most of which goes to the military, and has to (at least pretend) to co-ordinate Afghan and general anti-terrorist policies with Pakistan. So Kayani is the main man the US has to deal with…and the relationship has not been working out so well as of late! More on that in a moment.

Kayani was promoted to command the army’s elite 10 Corps, and soon after was personally picked to head up a probe into an assassination attempt on then President Musharraf (himself a former General of the armed forces). Next stop: he was made the head of Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency…the other extremely powerful entity in the country…which is also controversial and shadowy. So Kayani has actually now held both of the truly most powerful positions in the country, I believe the only person to ever pull that off.

After several rocky years at the helm of the super spy agency, Kayani was then appointed the top job as head of the army in 2007 when then-General Musharraf officially stepped down to become “just’ the President of Pakistan…as he had held both titles since a military coup in 1999 which him put himself in power. Why would I bother telling that story? Well, don’t think for one second that the exact same scenario could not happen again, and soon, as Kayani is now in the same exact position that Musharaff was: a powerful and respected military head that may step in in a time of crisis to take control of an ineffective and weak civilian government. I actually fully expect that to happen at any given time now.

And with that prediction, let’s go ahead and cut to the chase on this character now. Kayani has loyally served his country in military and spy functions, in government appointed positions and as a mediator of specific situations, and he has proven his mettle time and again, both in his roles as military commander and political arbiter. He is a quite, reserved, thoughtful, highly intelligent playa’ that is the absolute best thing for Pakistan right now to maintain some sense of stability….and here are his attitudes towards the real important shizzle:

General Kayani DOES, above all other things, believe the Pakistani military is the bedrock of the entire country and he will preserve its power as much as possible. It is the most respected institution by the peoples of Pakistan; it gets the most money from the federal budget; it also gets the majority of funds supplied by the US; it is actively fighting the war on terror within Pakistan; it controls the nuclear arsenal; and to be perfectly frank, it is the only glue holding the country together right now. In this regard, Kayani has paid attention to the well-being of soldiers, organizing across-the-board pay raises in 2010 and visiting troops in remote corners of the country. He has been referred to as a “soldier’s soldier.”  Keep the troops happy, as they are the backbone of the society and the ones taking losses everyday on the battlefield that is Pakistan/Afghanistan. Which ties into…

General Kayani DOES NOT take kindly to being pressured by the US (but is not by any description anti-American) and is now forming Pakistan’s military policies with increasing independence from US directives and decreasing reliance on US money. See, the the US needs Pakistan to help fight the terrorists and Taliban in Afghanistan, and also fight the terrorists, al-Qaeda, and Taliban inside Pakistan too. In fact, the Pakistan role in all of this is downright critical. But the Pakistani people, and the Pakistani military as well, are getting tired of doing the lion’s share of the dirty work in this US-sponsored war on terrorism in this neighborhood….as the Pakistani losses, both military and civilian deaths, far exceed losses experienced by the US or Afghans.

While the US and Pakistan are still allies and partners, the relationship between the countries is currently at an all time low. 2011 was a tumultuous, terrible year that saw 1)tremendous Pakistani deaths due to terrorist attacks and military losses on the battlefield, 2) the bin Laden raid, which embarrassed and enraged the Pakistani military, 3)the jailing and subsequent release of a CIA contractor that killed some Pakistani civilians, 4)US accusations that Pakistan backed a terrorist attack on the US Embassy in Kabul, 5)an increase in US drone strikes on armed groups on Pakistani soil, and most recently 6)the US/NATO accidental attack on Pakistani troops on the border, resulting in 24 dead soldiers. Ouch.

Given this deterioration of the US/Pakistani relationship, and the resultant public rage focused on the US within Pakistan, it is perhaps no wonder the General Kayani has taken a much more hardened stance towards his military’s dealings with America. In April 2011, Kayani personally demanded that the US steeply reduce the number of CIA operatives and Special Operations forces working in Pakistan, and also that the CIA radically decrease drone strikes in Pakistan. After the NATO debacle in December 2011, Kayani suspended all NATO supply lines that crossed Pakistani soil.

While the Pakistani military is fighting the enemies of America on the US/Pak border, and paying a high price in blood, they are still hesitant to totally destroy all their past relations with the Afghan Taliban, an entity they helped create and still covertly use as an arm of political power to further their own aims in the neighborhood. Which is why General Kayani seems unlikely to respond to any further American demands to root out other militant leaders. Kayani knows Pakistan still needs to help the US to keep a lid on terrorism, but will likely now offer just enough cooperation to keep the billions of dollars in US aid flowing in. So US influence is on the wane in Pakistan, as Kayani leads his country in a more independent direction that places their own security and local interests ahead of US ones. Sorry Uncle Sam! And finally…

While he is a huge supporter of democracy, General Kayani DOES NOT dig the current administration of Pakistani President Asif Zardari…and probably personally really hates Zardari outright. ‘Contempt’ may be the best description of Kayani’s feelings towards Zardari. The Pakistani military has been angered by the inept handling of the devastating floods that struck the country in 2010, alarmed by the collapsing economy, and disgusted by the endemic corruption and outright incompetence of the Zardari government.

Kayani has actually confronted the government leaders multiple times for what I’m sure was a verbal bitch-slap of epic proportions, and, again to speak bluntly, the General has made no bones about the fact he wants a full shake-down, shake-up, and possible wipe-out of the Zardari regime. And these troubled times are precisely the scenario that has many times in Pakistan’s past resulted in a military takeover of the civilian government….and I think the rotten government fruit is more ripe for the picking right now than ever before. So is a “President Kayani” around the corner? Could be. For a country that cherishes civilian democracy, they have a surprising affinity for strong men in uniform.

Pakistan could certainly do worse than having General Kayani maintain control of the joint right now, if not even further expand his role. A staunch nationalist, a skilled military man and political mediator, and by all accounts a totally un-corruptible leader, in a country where corruption reigns supreme, Kayani is well-respected by his men and the Pakistani people as a whole. Even the US has developed a grudging respect for Kayani, whom they regard as astute, straightforward, respectful of the idea of democratic government but genuinely disgusted by the current regime’s thievery and ineptitude.

The wrap-up: General Kayani is not merely a dude in charge of the military, he is the most influential person in Pakistan, and makes all of the most important foreign policy decisions and probably many of the domestic ones as well. He is the the only dude that the US peeps trust and rely on too. And the dude controls the nuclear arsenal of this country, the 5th largest in the world! And he controls the lion’s share of the country’s budget! And the military is the most respected and most powerful entity in the country (even though it has endemic corruption too)! You must know what is up with Kayani!

Posted: Dec 2011

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