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Reconciliation move.

* Presidential election is only eight months away. Efforts are being made to field a consensus presidential candidate.

* There are underhand efforts to curtail the powers of President Ghulam Ishaq Khan who is believed to be the strongest man after nominating General Abdul Waheed as the new COAS.

* The new COAS is reputed to be as every inch a soldier and a professional by all standards.

Reconciliation between the PDA and the opposition is reported to be in the offing. The move to elect Benazir Bhutto as the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee is being viewed as significant. There are also chances that Mr. Asif Zardari may soon be released. Benazir Bhutto has already left for Europe. Political observers speculated about a well planned meeting between the opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Europe.

Possibilities are there for joint government efforts to repeal Eighth Amendment and field a consensus presidential candidate. However, the PDA is hoping to get a positive response from the government for the release of all its prisoners, particularly those, nominated to represent their party in talks with government side, withdrawal of all cases and references and an immediate end to victimisalion bringing both sides at par for initiating political dialogue. It is now felt that both the government and the opposition wanted to end confrontation and polarisation.

The formation of a two member committee headed by Mahmood Khan Achakzai on the part of the government would be welcomed. The presidential election being only eight months away, the Prime Minister's camp is actively engaged in getting their own man inducted into presidency. The Prime Minister is making overtures to Leader of the Opposition Ms. Benazir Bhutto to join hands with him to form a united front against Ghulam Ishaq Khan. Mr. Shahbaz Sharif brother of Prime Minister is learnt to be having secret parleys with Ms. Bhutto and her surprise election to the chairmanship of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee was the result of these back-door meetings.

There are reports of differences within IJI rank over the presidential candidate. Elahi Buksh Soomro, a president's man, has floated the name of Ghulam Ishaq Khan as an IJI candidate. However, it was denied by Nawaz Sharif by stating that the name has not yet been finalized.

There are underhand efforts to curtial the powers of President Ghulam Ishaq Khan who is believed to be the strongest man after nominating General Waheed as the new COAS. Mahmood Khan Achakzai MNA and head of P.M.'s two member negotiating team has loudly stated about the annulment of 8th Amendment. Political analysis believed that it was due to recent rapprochement between Nawaz Sharif and Benazir. Annulment of 8th Amendment is the slogan of Retd. Air Marshal Asghar Khan for the forthcoming presidential election.

PDA has not yet decided whom to back for the presidency. However, Asghar Khan's candidature will not be supported by PDA. Besides Asghar Khan other candidates are also on the run for presidency. Syed Iftikhar Hussain Gilani the PPP constitutional brain hinted at the possibility that government and the opposition may field a joint candidate for the presidency. Meanwhile, there is a move to give the province of Sindh the coveted office of the president.

The PPP and the Muslim League are said to be in favour of this move and efforts are being made to find a consensus candidate from the province. Nawabzada Nasrullah who is also a president-in-waiting, may not be able to muster support from his alliance. If Muslim League decides to offer the presidency to Sindh, the chances of the minister of defence Syed Ghous Ali Shah are extremely bright. Ghulam Ishaq Khan will then have to take on the former judge and chief minister of Sindh. The so called 'President's eleven, a group of legislators who are known to be Ishaq loyalists, will cast their ballots in favour of the incumbent.

United States released a report on human rights violation in Pakistan. Human Rights Society of Pakistan, endorsed the criticism made by U.S. report on certain areas like presidential references, jail's conditions, police inefficiency and misuse of powers, child labour etc.

The Society urged the government not to take it as an interference in the internal affairs of the country but try to improve the weaknesses pointed out in the report. It is speculated Benazir Bhutto has gone abroad at the government's request for pleading the case of Pakistan at the international level regarding alleged Human Rights violations in the country.

It is believed that the USA's concern over the violation of human rights had compelled ruling troika not only to show their support on electing Benazir to head the Foreign Affairs Standing Committee, but also to persuade her for pleading the country's case before the foreign government.

Pakistan has been given 180 days by the United States to prove that it is not a terrorist state and is not running military training camps for Kashmiri militants or supplying them arms. The deadline expires on July 6. Though Islamabad has been working overtime to convince the US government that the charge is true and that Pakistan should be put on the state department's list of terrorist states.

New COAS

In a surprise move, President Ghulam Ishaq Khan appointed General Abdul Waheed as Chief of Army Staff. The General has superseded six fellow officer. A member of the National Assembly remarked. "The era of the Pakhtoons has begun". The president belongs to the Frontier province and so does the new Chief of Army Staff. Another MNA Mahmood Khan Achakzai remarked. "This is not a General of the Sandhurst colonical brand. I welcome an enlightened man from the rigid mountains of Zbob. He has the professional skills for improving the performance of the Pakistan Army. But more than that he is intelligent enough to comprehend politics and will promote the democratic process. General Waheed is not a religious extremist".

Political and military observers in the capital are inclined to believe that the decision of Ghulam Ishaq Khan has damaged his image of being a man of book who would do nothing but stick to the rules, regulations and principles in laid the book. But his surprise deviation from the book gave a clear impression that the decision to appoint Gen. Abdul Waheed has been prompted by political considerations. This has certainly strengthened GIK's position in the troika of power.

The new Chief of Army Staff is reputed to be as every inch a soldier'. He is a professional by all standards and has not been vocal during discussions on political situation at the Corps Commanders Conference. General Asif Nawaz was also very reserved from the day one made it clear that army would stay away from politics. But the events in Karachi and the launching of military operation in Sindh forced the late General to take part in political decisions specially in the context of Sindh. Given the political situation of the country nobody knows when the new COAS might also be drawn into political matters.

General Abdul Waheed is a Pukhtoon. He was born in Peshawar and received his education at the Edwards College. He is the nephew of Sardar Abdul Rab Nishtar, prominent Muslim League leader and a close aide of the Quaid-i-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. General Waheed's ancestors, however, came from Balochistan and belonged to Kakar tribe. His great grandfather migrated from Balochistan and settled in Peshawar. The appointment of Gen. Waheed is bound to bring large-scale changes in the military hierarchy as majority of the senior army officers now superseded may have to go on optional retirement. Such a situation will help Islamabad to have an ideal army free from politicking as Gen. Waheed had never been among the policy-makers during the rule of Gen. Zia when army was dominating the country's politics.

General Abdul Waheed was born on March 23, 1927, at Peshawar. Nephew of Sardar Abdul Rab Nishter, he received his education at the Edwards College. He was commissioned in the Frontier Force Regiment in 1959. He is a graduate from Command and Staff College, Canada and National Defence College, Rawalpindi. He saw active service in the 1965 war with an FF unit in Chawinda and as brigade major of an independent infantry brigade in Sulemanki sector in 1971 - both scenes of major battles in the respective wars. The general officer has served on various command, staff and instrumental appointments. He served as Chief of Staff of a Corps and subsequently commanded an infantry brigade. Promoted major general in 1984, he commanded an infantry division in Sindh. Later, he served as Adjutant General at General Headquarters.

On being promoted Lieutenant General in 1989, he was appointed Commander 12 Corps at Quetta. General Waheed has been awarded Hilal-i-Imtiaz (Military) and Sitara-i-Basalat for his meritorious services. He is married and has three children. The appointment of General Waheed as COAS saw four officers being superseded. They are in order of seniority. Lt. General R.D. Bhatti, Lt. General Mohammad Ashraf (Corps Commander, Lahore), Lt. General Arif Bangash (Quarter Master General). All these officers were due for retirement between February and July this year. General Waheed too was to retire in 1993, having completed four years as Lt. General, three of which he served as Corps Commander in Quetta. The President obviously decided to choose from among the senior Corps Commanders rather than from officers in the next tier, starting from Lt. General Latif Moghul, whose name also figured as a contender in press speculation.
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Author:Haidari, Iqbal
Publication:Economic Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Words:1589
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