Saturday, September 22, 2007

Mushraff Strengthens Army Hold

By Cernig

In advance of his coming assured re-election as President while still in military uniform - something he promised not to do - Musharaff of Pakistan is ensuring that even if he subsequently takes his uniform off, the army will remain his loyal fiefdom.
President Musharraf of Pakistan reshuffled the army high command yesterday, placing loyalists in key positions before his planned resignation as chief of the army.

The move is designed to guarantee him continued control of the Armed Forces as he prepares to become a civilian leader, eight years after seizing power in a bloodless coup.

The most significant change in the reshuffle is the appointment of Lieutenant-General Nadeem Taj, one of the President’s closest aides, as head of the powerful Inter Services Intelligence. Control of the ISI is crucial to maintaining a firm grip on power as the agency gathers intelligence, determines foreign policy and helps to promote the military’s agenda.

General Taj is considered a staunch loyalist because he is a distant relation of General Musharraf and has served previously as his military secretary and head of military intelligence. He replaces Lieutenant-General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who is tipped as the most likely successor to General Musharraf as army chief.
Musharaff has promised to hang up his uniform once his re-election has been rubber-stamped, in order to head off possible civil unrest at his breaking his original promise. But if he decides to break his promise again, citing some security threat that means he must continue as Army Chief, he now has the loyalists in position to back up his decision. Likewise, even if he steps down as head of the military, it will be in name only with the military still dancing to his tune. No-one ever said the Pakistani dictator was a stupid man.

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