July 23, 2010armyForeign AffairsKayanimilitary-jihadi complexPakistanSecurity

The Blocked Sewage Pipe Theory of military dictatorships

It’s all downhill for Kayani now

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

You would be foolish to think that you can rub off the entire top echelon of the Pakistani army’s general staff on the wrong side and get on with life as usual. Look at the last two power transitions in that country—Nawaz Sharif was ousted because he made the cardinal mistake of being less than respectful in his treatment of General Jehangir Karamat and then General Musharraf. In his turn, General Musharraf was ultimately pushed out because the army hierarchy had had enough of him. The rigidly hierarchical pyramid that is the Pakistani army is at once highly competitive at a peer level and unappreciative of anything that disrupts upward movement. Those who mess with the dynamic end up paying a dear price for it.

It doesn’t need you to be particularly astute to figure this out. But the trappings of power, headiness of perceived victories and public sycophancy by US officials militates against the exercise of good sense. Then fall, Caesar. It’s General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani’s turn now.

General Kayani might have secured a three-year extension but in doing so, he has ensured that as many as 24 lieutenant-generals—the entire lot of them—will not stand a chance to become army chief, unless something untoward happens to the overstaying incumbent. There are around 170 major-generals many of who will be affected too. That makes for quite a lot of disgruntled officers who would wish ill of their boss.

A general who gets an extension is like a blockage in a sewage pipe. If the blockage is not cleared, the pipe will burst. There’s always more sewage, pressure builds up relentlessly and no one wants the sewage pipe to burst. Not even US officials. So it is the blockage that is cleared.

General Kayani played a masterful hand so far. He would have done well to hang up his boots in November. Alas, power and hubris got the better of him. It’s downhill for him now. The dagger-sharpeners of Rawalpindi will see increased custom in the coming months.

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