Today in New Delhi, India
Oct 23, 2018-Tuesday
New Delhi
  • Humidity
  • Wind

Who stands where

When dealing with Pakistan, India has to deal with these characters. HT brings you the whole cast.

world Updated: Jul 25, 2010 00:25 IST

When dealing with Pakistan, India has to deal with these characters. HT brings you the whole cast.

The Power Centre
Ashfaq Parvez Kayani
Chief of Army Staff
58, Punjabi

The Chief of the Army Staff has always been the pivot of the Pakistani civil-military empire. But with his tenure extended by three years, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani will outlast both President Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in office. Barring the outside chance of the Zardari-Gilani duo’s re-election in 2013, India will have to deal with Kayani, a Punjabi whose clan inhabits the plains between Rawalpindi and Jhelum.

It’s important always to know the army chief’s mind on India-Pakistan issues. More so in the case of Kayani to whom the elected leadership has outsourced issues related to the country’s security: AfPak, India-Pakistan and US-Pakistan relations. By granting him a long extension, Zardari and Gilani have further ingratiated Pakistan's civilian establishment before its de facto power center.

The inscrutable Kayani — nicknamed ‘The quiet one’ — could be a customer more difficult for India than the garrulous Pervez Musharraf. Islamabad couldn’t have opened talks without Kayani’s nod. But his support of the process is suspect with India focusing sharply on David Headley’s revelations about the ISI’s direct nexus with the conspirators of 26/11.

Kayani was Musharraf's ISI chief. He not only handpicked the current head of the intelligence agency, General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, but also gave him an extension in the sensitive job. That makes Islamabad’s cooperation in taking forward the Headley evidence doubly suspect.

Mr Compromiser
Asif Ali Zardari
President and PPP chief
54, Sindhi

Zardari is the foremost point of political power in Pakistan, at the top of the Pakistan Peoples Party leadership. After he became president in 2008, there were attempts in certain circles to create a rift between him and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani. Many believed that Gillani was closer to the army. But after the US Kerry-Lugar Bill — a non-military $7.5 billion aid package from the US that created much uproar in Pakistan because of the strong ‘conditionalities’ on how the aid money is used in the Bill — Zardari realised that it was better to play with the military than to confront them.

The Go-between
Yousaf Raza Gillani
Prime Minister
58, Multani

Gillani heads the government, but not the party that leads the government. Under Pervez Musharraf, he was arrested and imprisoned for misuse of office as speaker of National assembly. After taking over as prime minister in 2008, he played an important role in convincing Zardari to restore Chief Justice Iftikar Chaudhry in 2009. He thereby also strengthened his own position.

He also played a positive role in the alliance between Zardari and the military establishment. Gillani is liked in Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz circles as he is quite reconciliatory towards the main opposition party.

The Player
Shah Mehmood Qureshi
Foreign Minister
54, Multani

The Cambridge-educated Qureshi is a dapper, corporate-style entity. Like Yousaf Raza Gillani, he also sought for the chair of prime minister but didn’t make it. He then manoeuvred his way into the establishment circles and is now said to be closer to the corridors of power than Gillani. As former president of the PPP Punjab, Qureshi is trying to make his local power base stronger by taking the establishment’s line. Much of his performance with his Indian counterpart SM Krishna during their recent meeting in Islamabad stems from this attempt to build a domestic reputation.

Good cop-supercop
Rehman Malik
Interior Minister, 59, Punjabi

This former head of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Advisor to the Prime Minister on Interior Affairs and Narcotics Control is very close to PPP chief Asif Zardari. As Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Malik has lately played a major role in maintaining good relations with India. He may have conceded much more in private to India than he has been able to do in public. He was on Twitter last week with the message: “We appreciate PM India and Home Minister India for advising their aides not to give negative statements against Pakistan. Thanks for creating positivity.”

Brothers in arms
Nawaz Sharif
PML-N chief, 61, Punjabi
Shahbaz Sharif
Punjab Chief Minister
60, Punjabi

Nawaz Sharif is revered as party chief of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) while brother Shahbaz runs the government in the all-important province of Punjab. The PML-N has failed to govern in Punjab primarily because of Shahbaz’s dictatorial style. He doesn’t meet his cabinet often. Instead, he takes decisions on his own. Nawaz has given Shahbaz complete freedom to do what he wants. Nawaz has isolated himself to an extent and the fissures in his party are now visible for many to see.

Nawaz Sharif wants peace with India to deny the army the perennial threat it dangles to appropriate funds and the clout it has on domestic and foreign policy fronts. Shahbaz is thought to be closer to the military establishment than Nawaz while the military is wary of Nawaz. When he was in power, Nawaz had strained ties with four army chiefs: Asif Nawaz Janjua, Jahangir Karamat, Abdul Waheed Kakar and Pervez Musharraf.

The PML-N has been the only political party to have asserted itself when in power. If Zardari’s PPP is wary of the army, the army is wary of the Sharif Brothers’ PML-N.

First Published: Jul 25, 2010 00:23 IST