General Kayani seeks to repair dented army pride

The Express Tribune

Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is working to repair Pakistan Army’s wounded pride in the bitter aftermath of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, a humiliation that has strained US-Pakistani relations and raised questions about the top general’s own standing.

The May 2 top-secret raid left many in the military seething with anger. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

Retired and serving officers interviewed by The Associated Press spoke of seething anger within army ranks over the May 2 top-secret raid by US Navy SEALS, undetected by Pakistan’s military.

The raid set off a nationalist backlash: The usually untouchable army was sharply criticised in the press and on television talk shows, people demonstrated here in the capital demanding accountability, and open calls were made for the resignation of Gen Kayani.

The army is Pakistan’s strongest institution, and Kayani the nation’s most powerful leader, but he “has to be very careful,” said Lt-Gen (Retd) Talat Masood.

Like others interviewed, he doubted Kayani’s underlings would try to unseat him in an intra-army coup, but he noted occasions in the past when disgruntled officers were found to be plotting against their chief.

These rumblings generally occurred after the army suffered an embarrassing defeat, most notably Pakistan’s 1971 loss of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, when India took 90,000 Pakistani prisoners of war who weren’t released for a year.

Last month’s raid on the al Qaeda leader’s Abbottabad compound resurrected public comparisons to that Bangladesh debacle.

In one sign of dented military prestige, Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered the withdrawal of a two-star general after his men were caught on video killing an unarmed youth. The court took the unusual action “in light of the hostile environment in the society toward the military,” said defence analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi.

The public disquiet weighs heavily on the officer corps and down through lower ranks, Masood said.

“It could all result in loose talk,” he said, but he thought it wouldn’t go beyond that. He noted that within days of the Bin Laden raid, Kayani met with key corps commanders in an effort to assure his ranking officers they had not been humiliated.

There’s “quite a lot of anger” within the military, Gen (retd) Jehangir Karamat, a former chief of staff himself, said in a telephone interview from the eastern city of Lahore.

“Maybe there is talk,” he told the AP. “Maybe anti-US feeling has gone up in the army. But actually there is in the country a whole lot of anger over the way it happened and the humiliation suffered, and it is inevitably reflected in the army.”

But, he added that “all this talk of him fighting for his job, his survival, I don’t see any signs of that.”


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