In 2007, when Gen. Ashfaq Kayani took charge from Gen. Pervez Musharraf as the 14th Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Pakistan was going through the most difficult times of its history. The role of Pakistan Army was under severe criticism; the country was hit by the two vices of Political instability and terrorism.
Pakistan was under serious security threats from its western borders, once considered to be the safest border of Pakistan and the situation was not too different at eastern border, where India is used to mobilize its Army towards its border with Pakistan after every terror attack made in India. They have developed this new strategy in which they will self-righteously mobilize their troops first and will talk out the issues later.
The internal situation of the country was worse than ever. Baluchistan had become an international issue thanks to National and International media that was biasedly highlighting the human rights violations on the behest of some separatist forces. This daring of the media came during the Musharraf time, who had given enormous freedom to the media, and the issue caught fire after the death of the Baloch leader Akbar Bugti. At the same time India started helping the Baloch separatist movements and improvised the training of the recruits of Baloch separatist movements like BLA from Afghanistan, that later started attacking the security forces and people of Balochistan.
In FATA, the writ of the Pakistan government was being challenged by the TTP, whose influence in the areas of FATA and Sawat was growing every day. Most of the cities of Pakistan had been hit by suicide bombers and the security situation in the major cities of Pakistan was worst.
Political situation was not much different than the security situation, after the taking over of Gov. by Gen. Parvez Musharaf from Nawaz Sharif in 1999, there were many up’s and down’s in the politics of Pakistan that ended with removing of Chief Justice of Pakistan, Emergency declared in Pakistan, Lal Masjid Operation and Lawyers movement to restore Chief Justice. All these political activities tarnished the image of Army and put Pervez Musharaf under austere criticism by different political and human right organizations.
That was the time when Pakistan’s first spy master became the 14th Chief of Army Staff and started his tenet.
“Change has to be measured for sustainability before it is judged for acceptability. I would rather change things by 10 percent, if they are sustainable and acceptable, rather than change things by 80 percent, where they will not be sustainable, nor acceptable” General Kayani
Democracy in Pakistan
The first command Gen. Ahfaq Kiyani made was to order military officers to distance themselves from the politics and the politicians. ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) was ordered to focus on external threats and leave domestic politics alone and all military officers were withdrawn from Pakistan’s civil departments.
Setting a new parameter in the History of Pakistan Gen. Kayani extended unprecedented support to democracy and favoured the political process in the country without keeping his personal likes and dislikes in the politics of Pakistan. This helped democracy to flourish in Pakistan that resulted in May 2013 as country’s first transition of power between two democratically elected governments after the 2013-Elections.
Kiyani is also considered to be the man behind the secret talks that brought the two mainstream political party leaders Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif back to the political grounds of Pakistan in 2007. When Benazir Bhutto the popular leader of Pakistan People Party was assassinated just few days before the 2008 elections there were rumors all around about another military coup, the situation created insecurity about the 2008 Elections but Gen. Kiyani’s effort for the free and fair elections made the general elections possible. Gen. Kiyani supported democratic process and the decision made by the people of Pakistan to handover the government to Pakistan People Party that was led by Asif Ali Zardari after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
Just before the 2013 Elections, at the fourth annual Youm-e-Shouhada conference in Rawalpinidi, Gen. Kiyani said in his speech “I assure you that we stand committed to wholeheartedly assist and support the conduction of free, fair and peaceful elections. I also assure you that this support shall solely be aimed at strengthening democracy and rule of law in the country.”
During his tenure Gen. Kiyani improved the civil-military relation that restored the tainted image of the Armed Forces and the fact that he restrained himself and Army to lead a coup against any of the democratically elected governments restored the faith of Political parties in the Military Forces of Pakistan. This ultimately helped Gen. Kayani to gain reputation in internal and international political circles.
Restoration of Judiciary
When Parvez Musharaf imposed a state of emergency on November 3, 2007, and sent the chief justice home for second time because Judiciary was expected to rule Parvez Musharaf ineligible for the office, the movement was started by the lawyers who called for a long march and extensive media coverage for the restoration of Chief Justice. In March 2009 the major political parties also joined the long march under the leader ship of Nawaz Sharif.
Once again there was uncertainty in Pakistan and Marshal-Law was expected anytime. Many analysts and columnists thought that Army will never miss this chance to take over the government from Pakistan People Party but once again Gen Ashfaq Kayani solved this problem between the Government and the other political parties. As a result on 16th March 2009, Prime Minister announced the restoration of the judiciary including Chief Justice.
Immediately after taking over the charge as Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Asfaq Kiyani declared 2008 as the Year of the Soldiers and took steps for the betterment of the soldiers. As a first step the building project of GHQ in Islamabad was stopped and the money that was allocated for the GHQ building was distributed among the formations to improve the living standard of the Jawans of the Pakistan Army.
When Gen. Kiyani took charge of the 6th largest Army in the world, the policies and training of the Army was mostly India-centric. Army was trained for conventional war especially against India as Pakistan already had fought three wars with India. But at that time Pakistan was facing internal insurgencies in FATA and Malakand. These territories were new for Pakistan Army as after the announcement of accession of FATA tribes with Pakistan in 1948, the Quaid-e-Azam had announced withdrawal of armed forces from FATA and designated the tribesmen as defenders of the 1000 km long border with Afghanistan. Pakistan Armed forces had never strategized defense in FATA after that, but now after the insurgencies, Pakistan Army required special training to fight the unconventional war in FATA.
Keeping that in mind, 2009 was declared as a ‘Year of Training’ to bring professionalism in Army. Special arrangements were made and special trainings were organized at battalion level and competitions were held on brigade and division levels that enhanced the professionalism of Pak Army. These training included lessons on clearance of villages and acquaintance of local traditions, tribal linkage and even learning Pashto language, the language that the people of FATA speak. The officers would learn how to lead smaller, more tactical deployments that would not only act swiftly to deal with the insurgents but would be discreet to the locals. All the existing concepts were refined and new approaches were developed in the series of exercises like Azm-e-Nau.