New Pakistani Army Chief Is Nobody’s Pawn

Musharraf chose Kayani for loyalty, but general wants politics out
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 29, 2007 12:43 PM CST
In this file picture taken on Aug. 2, 2007 and released by Inter Services Public Relations President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, foreground, and newly appointed Vice Chief of Pakistan Army Gen. Ashfaq Parvez...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – President Pervez Musharraf chose his successor as army chief for his loyalty, but observers say Ashfaq Kayani wants to excise politics from Pakistan's military and focus on security challenges, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Though military secretary under Musharraf rival Benazir Bhutto, Kayani is seen by one retired honcho as untarnished: "Kayani has no baggage, he's starting with a clean slate."

The military looms large in Pakistan's history, army chiefs deposing the civilian rulers who appointed them on three occasions. But analysts say it's unlikely opponents can tempt Kayani—and with him, the army—into the political fray, citing an Islamist insurgency whose blasts, long confined to outer provinces, now regularly rock major cities. "Kayani can't afford to toe anyone's line unconditionally," an observer says.