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Musharraf names Kiyani army chief

Four days ahead of the presidential elections, former spy chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani has been designated the new Chief of Army Staff , reports Kamal Siddiqi.

world Updated: Oct 03, 2007 19:39 IST
Kamal Siddiqi

Four days ahead of the presidential elections, former spy chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani was designated the new Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and successor to General Pervez Mushrraf.

General Kiyani has been promoted to the post of Vice Chief of the Army Staff (VCOAS) and will take the top job when Musharraf vacates it within a month or so. Kiyani is said to be apolitical and close not only to General Musharaff, but in the good books of both former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and the US government.

The Government also named General Tariq Majid as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee on Tuesday. With these appointments, General Musharraf expects that he will be able to maintain his authority despite deciding to shed hid uniform.

General Ashfaq Kiyani joined the Pakistan Army in 1970 and was promoted to the Lt General rank in 2003 and appointed corps commander of Rawalpindi. He was Director-General Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) before being promoted as General.

The General, said to be reclusive, will assume charge as VCOAS of the army staff on Monday, October 8. He will become the Chief of Army Staff after re-election of President Musharraf, the ISPR has said.

Kiyani is described by many as a professional soldier with no political aspirations. Sources say that this quality, in the eyes of General Musharraf, coupled with the fact that he is fiercely loyal to the president, made him the ideal candidate for the COAS.

An infantryman, he started his career in the Baloch Regiment. Kiyani also underwent training tours in the United States. He rose to eventually serve Benazir Bhutto as her deputy military secretary during her first stint as prime minister.

His career progressed and he went on to serve as Director General of Military Operations (DGMO). It was during his tenure as DGMO that the intense military standoff of 2001-2002 between Pakistan and India took place.

In September 2003, he was appointed Corps Commander of the powerful X Corps at Rawalpindi. As Corps Commander, Kiyani was tasked with hunting down the terrorists behind the twin assassination attempts on Musharraf’s life in December 2003. He successfully did so, infiltrating their networks and was awarded the Hilal-i-Imtiaz or the "Crescent of Excellence", Pakistan's second-highest civilian award.

Nearly a year later, in October 2004, he was named DG ISI. While occupying the post, Kiyani has operated relatively quietly. It was only this year that he appeared on the public's radar due to his involvement in a number of high-profile issues including the President's negotiations with Benazir Bhutto.

Kiyani's apolitical nature can be judged from his involvement in President Musharraf's dismissal of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. It is believed that Kayani was present at the infamous March 2007 meeting that took place between Musharraf and Chief Justice Chaudhry, when the latter was informed that he was suspended. Kayani was also the only one present not to have filed an affidavit against the Chief Justice.

Kayani is also president of the Pakistan Golf Federation (PGF).