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Nadeem Taj: New ISI Chief

The Pakistan Army has promoted six major generals to lieutenant general today. The most important advancement is that of Nadeem Taj, who is the new head of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), replacing Ashfaq Kiyani (alt spellings: Ashfaq Kayani and Ashfaq Kiani).

Kiyani is likely to be the next Vice Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS), paving the way for his automatic succession of Pervez Musharraf as Chief of Army Staff (COAS) upon the Pakistani president’s retirement from the army. Other candidates include Tariq Majeed, Muhammad Sabir, and Salahuddin Satti.

These leadership changes are critical for Musharraf as his retirement from the army and vacating the post of COAS makes him severely vulnerable. The COAS has historically been the most powerful position in Pakistan and Musharraf is keen to replace himself with a loyalist.

Pakistan’s current political climate is akin to an armed standoff in which two (or more, perhaps) sides have their guns pointed at one another. Musharraf will drop his weapon as requested by his opponents, but only if he can trust his backup. He wants ensure that he will not be pounced upon (or worse) by his political opponents or those armed on his side (i.e. COAS, VCOAS, DG ISI) after disarming himself. His personal security and influence can remain as long as those in control of the big guns are loyal to him.

Musharraf’s vulnerabilities will increase into October. A key factor in determining the extent to which he will be weakened will be determined not only by the ongoing Supreme Court hearings, but also by the extent to which the People’s Party and Fazlur Rahman’s JUI accomodate Musharraf. Political pragmatists, both Benazir and Fazlur Rahman are somewhat on the fence, are waiting to see if the tide will fully turn against Musharraf or if they can extract significant concessions from him while he’s weak.

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Editor:

Arif Rafiq, a Washington, DC-based consultant on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues. [About]

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