Pakistan: The Future Military Leadership
Jun 08, 2007: Stratfor
For the first time since Pakistan's current political crisis began March 9, Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf acknowledged June 7 that he is in trouble. His admission that his hold on power is slipping raises significant doubts about his ability to secure a second term in the presidential election slated for the second half of September. It is too early to predict which actor will succeed him politically, but Musharraf's ability (or lack thereof) to win re-election will be a key element in shaping the Pakistani military's future.
In a speech to lawmakers from Pakistan's ruling coalition, embattled Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said he is worried and warned that a change in the current political order would be disastrous for the country, Pakistani media reported June 7. Musharraf accused his parliamentary allies of abandoning him in the ongoing political crisis and said he constantly receives reports about what they are saying privately. The president went on to criticize his allies for not supporting him publicly and questioned their usefulness if they are not willing to step up and defend him in the media and other public forums against criticism from the opposition.
These comments -- Musharraf's first admission of concern since the political crisis began March 9 -- show that the Musharraf regime is buckling under the weight of the crisis, which has created serious fissures within the civilian side of the hybrid Musharrafian political system. Infighting among his allies -- upon whom he depends to secure a second presidential term -- and the rapidly intensifying unrest in the country raise serious doubts about Musharraf's ability to win the next presidential election, scheduled for the second half of September. If the president cannot win re-election, he could try to impose an emergency rule of sorts, but that would only exacerbate matters.
When Musharraf cannot seek re-election, his generals likely will force him to throw in the towel, and a caretaker government, whose main task will be holding fresh parliamentary polls, will be created. It is too early to predict which political force will form the next government, since a number of elements are in play. Whatever happens to Musharraf politically, the composition of Pakistan's military -- with or without Musharraf -- is relatively easier to discern.
If Musharraf Wins Re-election
Musharraf not only wants to get re-elected as president, but he also wants to do so while holding onto the position of military chief. This is because he wants to oversee the forthcoming round of promotions and retirements in order to build the right team to ensure his hold on power -- a step that would be an absolute necessity if Musharraf later caves to domestic pressure and steps down as military chief.
The military deck is scheduled to undergo a routine reshuffle in the first week of October. The most prominent change to come is the retirement of Musharraf's two senior-most subordinates: Vice Chief of the Army Staff (VCOAS) Gen. Ahsan Saleem Hayat and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) Gen. Ehsan ul-Haq. Currently, these two are the only four-star generals besides Musharraf himself. If he wins re-election in September, Musharraf's priority will be to fill the vacant positions. This process will bring to the fore younger generals, among whom there are a number of possible candidates based on merit and seniority, as well as on personal ties to Musharraf:
1. Lt. Gen. Tariq Majeed: commander of the 10 Corps, who is considered to be the most capable among all the corps commanders, and who is the front-runner for the No. 2 position of VCOAS
2. Lt. Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani: director-general of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and another senior general who could be appointed to the No. 3 post, the CJCSC
3. Lt. Gen. Salahuddin Satti: current chief of the General Staff who, though a bit junior to other generals, could be moved to a key position
4. Lt. Gen. Muhammad Yousaf: current vice chief of the General Staff, who also could be appointed to a critical position
While effecting promotions and appointments, he would want to make sure that his own position is not threatened, especially given the growing movement to oust him from power. Moreover, should he need to step down as military chief and become a civilian president, he would want the next military chief to be beholden to him. This involves not just loyalty but also the creation of dependency. Therefore, he could go beyond the top tier of generals and elevate others, such as 4th Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Shafaatullah Shah, Quarter Master General Lt. Gen. Afzal Muzaffar or 30th Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Waseem Ahmed Ashraf. Director-General of Military Intelligence Maj-Gen. Nadeem Ejaz could also become a three-star general and be made director-general of the ISI.
There is a downside to filling the top slots with second-tier commanders. These generals are inexperienced in political matters, especially in situations like the current crisis. Therefore, they are more likely to press Musharraf to step down if the existing situation escalates, especially with political forces mobilizing for the parliamentary polls slated for November.
Considering the pace and magnitude of the anti-Musharraf movement's growth, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that Musharraf can win re-election. Once Musharraf realizes that an election victory is beyond his reach, he could attempt to impose emergency rule as a means of prolonging his hold on power. This will only accelerate the unrest and lead to the point at which his generals will likely have to force him to quit.
If Musharraf is Forced to Step Down
Though he is the army chief, Musharraf has not had time to oversee the day-to-day running of the military because of his duties as a president -- especially as a president who has had to deal with an extraordinary number of domestic and foreign policy issues. As a result, Hayat has been running the military on Musharraf's behalf and could easily step into the role of military chief.
But the task of removing the increasingly unpopular Musharraf -- especially since Hayat is due to retire -- would make the process very complicated, to say the least. Furthermore, Hayat is known to be mild-mannered, which makes him unlikely to initiate Musharraf's removal. Instead, a consensus among corps commanders and certain key agency heads would be required.
This is where the other four-star general, Ehsan-ul-Haq, who has served as head of the military's two intelligence directorates, could play an important role. However, Ehsan-ul-Haq's position is ceremonial, so he does not have the authority to get the ball rolling or even secure a position in a post-Musharraf military leadership. This makes the role of the corps commanders -- who already are key because they are in command of the troops -- all the more important.
From the seniority standpoint, Majeed and Kiyani would be the key deciding players, while Satti and commander of the Mangla-based 1st Corps Lt. Gen. Sajjad Akram would be the prominent players from a logistical standpoint. At the end of the day, a consensus would be needed among the three-star generals, who likely would back Hayat to succeed Musharraf as army chief and get a three-year extension, thereby avoiding his scheduled retirement.
Hayat's first order of business as military chief would be to work with the political forces and the civilian establishment to install an acting president and caretaker government headed by an interim prime minister, which would hold parliamentary elections within 90 days. Though Hayat would not inherit Musharraf's political powers, he would be the one to oversee the reshuffle of the military deck, at which point every position aside from his own would be up for grabs. That said, those who would have played leading roles in the removal of Musharraf will be the ones most likely to assume key posts in the post-Musharraf military hierarchy.
After Musharraf's departure from the helm, regardless of how and when that happens, the military is unlikely to continue to directly run the country. Moreover, because of the assertiveness of the judiciary and the media, and an increasingly vibrant civil society, the military will have to give the civilian setup more freedom than it did in 1988, when military rule came to an end after military-chief-cum-president Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq died in a mysterious plane crash. But, for the foreseeable future, the military will continue to maintain a strong hold over the state -- partly because it is the most disciplined and professional institution in the country.