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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The rise of Pakistan's 'quiet man'
By Syed Shoaib Hasan BBC News, Islamabad
The rise of Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kiani through the ranks of the Pakistani military has been rapid if not extraordinary.
The man nominated by Gen Musharraf to be his replacement as army chief is noted for his patience, diligence, intelligence and sheer determination.
Another contributing factor has been his ability to keep a low profile when necessary while also being able to take decisive action when it's needed.
Gen Kiani's clan is one of the largest and most powerful in the northern Jhelum area of Pakistan's largest province, Punjab.
The harsh and arid region is famed throughout the subcontinent for only one product - soldiers.
So in many ways Gen Kiani was born to the job.
Passion for golf
He initially studied at the local cadet college in Jhelum, and was subsequently accepted at the army's military academy in the northern town of Kakul.
In August 1971 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant, and joined the famed Baluch regiment.
He joined up in time to experience the military defeat to India of the same year.
His first taste of politics came when he served as deputy military secretary to Benazir Bhutto in her first government in 1988.
Since then he has served at various levels of command.
He is a graduate of the Army staff colleges in Quetta and Islamabad, and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth in the US.
Married with two children, Gen Kiani is president of the Pakistan Golf Association and an avid golfer.
He is respected in the army as a professional soldier who deliberately keeps a low profile.
Crisis management
This is in sharp contrast to the man he has been chosen to replace - Pervez Musharraf.
But maintaining a low profile has not meant that Gen Kiani has shied away from high-profile assignments.
He has a "can-do" image as a man who gets things done.
Gen Kiani has never been seen a part of President Musharraf's inner circle. But the president has always turned to him when the going gets tough.
It was Gen Kiani who was responsible for the investigation into attempts to assassinate President Musharraf in December 2003.
As one of the army's senior most officers, Gen Kiani could confidently expect to take the top job
In his book, In the Line of Fire, President Musharraf writes how the investigations into the attacks initially ran into problems because of inter-agency rivalries.
"But these disappeared when I appointed Kiani in charge of investigations," the president wrote.
Observers believe that it was from this time onwards that Gen Musharraf started to rely heavily on Gen Kiani for crisis management.
But insiders say it was actually the winter of 2001-2002 that showcased Gen Kiani's abilities.
At that time he was serving as Director-General Military Operations (DGMO) - the army's operational commander.
As Pakistan's relations with India deteriorated, militants staged a deadly attack on the Indian parliament.
Delhi blamed it on the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba, and mobilised its army to take action. Soon the two nuclear-armed neighbours were dug in opposite each other along their 1,500km border.
Tempers were running high and a single aggressive movement could have sparked conflict. During this time, Maj Gen Ashfaq Kiani was in charge of all troop movements.
Insiders say it was his expert handling of the situation, and his constant contact with the Indian command that kept the eight-month stand-off from becoming an outright war.
It also brought him to the attention of Gen Musharraf. Subsequently, Gen Kiani was promoted to command the army's elite 10 Corps based in Rawalpindi.
When the attacks on President Musharraf took place in the city, Gen Kiani was the natural choice for the job. The investigations led to a secret military tribunal convicting 11 men of planning and carrying out the attack.
'Own man'
Soon after he was made the head of Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. In March 2007, he was part of the infamous "tribunal" of intelligence chiefs who met Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry the day before his suspension by President Musharraf.
He was later named as the only one who sat silently through the entire episode.
Gen Kiani was also the only official at the meeting who did not submit an affidavit against the chief justice.
President Musharraf's botched attempt to sack the judge brought a political storm which has dogged his government ever since.
During that time, Gen Kiani again emerged as a saviour, helping with attempts to broker a power-sharing deal with former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
As one of the army's most senior officers, Gen Kiani could confidently expect to take the top job. But because he was head of the controversial and shadowy ISI, some felt that he had disqualified himself from further promotion.
No ISI chief has ever been appointed commander of Pakistan's army. The agency's dealings have often been at odds with the policy of the government of the day.
Observers also contended that Gen Kiani was too much "his own man" for President Musharraf to place faith in him.
But Gen Kiani has patiently bided his time while the names of other potentials were bandied around.

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