The Rise of
Pakistan's 'Quiet Man'
By Syed Shoaib Hasan
rise of Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kiani through the ranks
of the Pakistani military has been rapid if not
The man nominated by Gen Musharraf to be his replacement
as army chief is noted for his patience, diligence,
intelligence and sheer determination.
Another contributing factor has been his ability
to keep a low profile when necessary while also
being able to take decisive action when it's needed.
Gen Kiani's clan is one of the largest and most
powerful in the northern Jhelum area of Pakistan's
largest province, Punjab. The harsh and arid region
is famed throughout the subcontinent for only one
product - soldiers.
So in many ways Gen Kiani was born to the job.
He initially studied at the local cadet college
in Jhelum, and was subsequently accepted at the
army's military academy in the northern town of
In August 1971 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant,
and joined the famed Baluch regiment.
He joined up in time
to experience the military defeat to India of the
His first taste of politics came when he served
as deputy military secretary to Benazir Bhutto in
her first government in 1988.
Since then he has served at various levels of command.
He is a graduate of the Army staff colleges in Quetta
and Islamabad, and General Staff College at Fort
Leavenworth in the US.
Married with two children, Gen Kiani is president
of the Pakistan Golf Association and an avid golfer.
He is respected in the army as a professional soldier
who deliberately keeps a low profile.
Crisis management: This is in sharp contrast to
the man he has been chosen to replace - Pervez Musharraf.
But maintaining a low profile has not meant that
Gen Kiani has shied away from high-profile assignments.
He has a "can-do" image as a man who gets
Gen Kiani has never been seen a part of President
Musharraf's inner circle. But the president has
always turned to him when the going gets tough.
It was Gen Kiani who was responsible for the investigation
into attempts to assassinate President Musharraf
in December 2003.
In his book, In the Line of Fire, President Musharraf
writes how the investigations into the attacks initially
ran into problems because of inter-agency rivalries.
"But these disappeared when I appointed Kiani
in charge of investigations," the president
Observers believe that it was from this time onwards
that Gen Musharraf started to rely heavily on Gen
Kiani for crisis management.
But insiders say it was actually the winter of 2001-2002
that showcased Gen Kiani's abilities.
At that time he was serving as Director-General
Military Operations (DGMO) - the army's operational
As Pakistan's relations with India deteriorated,
militants staged a deadly attack on the Indian parliament.
Delhi blamed it on the Pakistan-based militant group
Lashkar-e-Toiba, and mobilized its army to take
action. Soon the two nuclear-armed neighbors were
dug in opposite each other along their 1,500km border.
running high and a single aggressive movement could
have sparked conflict. During that time, Maj Gen
Ashfaq Kiani was in charge of all troop movements.
Insiders say it was his expert handling of the situation,
and his constant contact with the Indian command
that kept the eight-month standoff from becoming
an outright war.
It also brought him to the attention of Gen Musharraf.
Subsequently, Gen Kiani was promoted to command
the army's elite 10 Corps based in Rawalpindi.
When the attacks on President Musharraf took place
in the city, Gen Kiani was the natural choice for
the job. The investigations led to a secret military
tribunal convicting 11 men of planning and carrying
out the attack.
'Own man': Soon after he was made the head of Pakistan's
powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.
In March 2007, he was part of the infamous "tribunal"
of intelligence chiefs who met Chief Justice Iftikhar
Chaudhry the day before his suspension by President
He was later named as the only one who sat silently
through the entire episode. Gen Kiani was also the
only official at the meeting who did not submit
an affidavit against the chief justice.
President Musharraf's botched attempt to sack the
judge brought a political storm which has dogged
his government ever since. During that time, Gen
Kiani again emerged as a savior, helping with attempts
to broker a power-sharing deal with former Prime
Minister Benazir Bhutto.
As one of the army's most senior officers, Gen Kiani
could confidently expect to take the top job. But
because he was head of the controversial and shadowy
ISI, some felt that he had disqualified himself
from further promotion.
No ISI chief has ever been appointed commander of
Pakistan's army. The agency's dealings have often
been at odds with the policy of the government of
Observers also contended that Gen Kiani was too
much "his own man" for President Musharraf
to place faith in him.
But Gen Kiani has patiently bided his time while
the names of other potentials were bandied around.