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November 6, 2008

Gulzar Kayani, a brave and sincere man


November 6, 2008

ISLAMABAD: When I first met him during the early months of Musharraf's Oct 12, 1999 martial law in his office at 10 Corps, he gave me a patient hearing and did not show any sign of annoyance at my criticism of what the generals had done to this country. With a smile on his face, he concluded, "You are lucky, you express yourself publicly. I can't."

Lt-Gen (retd) Jamshed Gulzar Kayani, who died on Nov 1 and was buried at the Army Graveyard, Rawalpindi, the next day, lived a life that speaks volumes about his courage, integrity, humility and straightforwardness.

In a country where civilian and military bureaucracy generally depends on sycophancy and sucking up to superiors to climb the ladders of progress, he remained conspicuous by speaking his mind and calling a spade a spade, throughout his military life and during his short stint in the civilian set-up.

Kayani, who was widely respected in the Army for being a professional soldier, was generally misunderstood as being one of the members of the gang of generals who were behind the 1999 military coup. Many are still under the impression that being second to General Ziauddin in the ISI, Kayani had established a nexus with Musharraf to overthrow Nawaz Sharif's government. But it is not true.

Though, he never tried to explain, the fact remained that not only the Oct 12 military coup was a surprise for him, he never headed the Internal Wing of the ISI. During Musharraf's military rule, while other top generals turned their back on Gen Ziauddin, Kayani never severed his relations with his former ISI boss, whom he always considered as a reputed and competent general of the Army.

Kayani was also amongst those few in the Army who did not approve of how Musharraf treated Ziauddin and a few others.

When Musharraf was all powerful, Kayani was amongst those few who questioned their boss on different accounts whether it was the making of the PML-Q by the ISI, holding of the referendum,

the election manoeuvring and above all the post-9/11 U-turn of the ousted dictator. But every time they were overruled.

Like a few others who were critical of the post-9/11 policies of Musharraf, Kayani, too, was removed from the office of Corps Commander, Rawalpindi, and sidelined. Later, almost 10 months before his retirement, he was offered the job of the FPSC chairman and retired prematurely from the military.

Knowing civil bureaucracy pretty well and having seen many men of integrity from amongst the government servants falling flat following pressures from the highest levels, I knew the respected retired general's reputation was at stake. Within a few weeks of his appointment as the FPSC chairman, he was to head a promotion board meeting where two high-profile promotion cases were to be considered.

In one case, the bureaucrat involved was a blue-eyed boy of the president, who wanted his promotion though the officer had not done the Staff College course but had got an exemption from the prime minister. The other case involved a favourite of the then prime minister, who had conveyed to the secretary Establishment that his favourite must be promoted. General Kayani simply did not consider for promotion the president's favourite for not fulfilling the basic criterion while the PM's favourite was superseded.

Kayani passed the first major test of his integrity as the FPSC chairman without much reaction from the highest levels but he perhaps never knew that there were so many other trials waiting in the wings. In his pursuit to uphold merit, he challenged the ISI for making appointments without consulting the FPSC, he questioned the government for re-employing retired generals and other ex-servicemen in violation of the rules and law; he challenged the authority of the prime minister (both during Zafarullah Khan Jamali and Shaukat Aziz's tenures) for promoting officers in disregard to the recommendations of the promotion board, and above all, he simply declined to President Musharraf's chief of staff when he was repeatedly asked to delete his observations about violation involved in the re-employment of ex-servicemen from the annual FPSC book.

Within no time all the powerful and mighty in Islamabad became his enemy but he never cared for anyone and continued with his pursuit. A stage came where both the presidency and the prime minister's secretariat stopped talking to him. But, on the other hand, he earned extreme respect and honour from the members of the bureaucracy.

True to his reputation but to the bad luck of Musharraf, Gen Kayani once stood up in a military function, attended by serving and retired generals in early 2005, and asked the military ruler if he was left with any credibility after backtracking from his televised commitment of removing his uniform by the end of 2004.

After a few months, the presidency initially clipped the powers of the FPSC chairman and later issued an ordinance to slash the tenure of Kayani from five to three years. Kayani took the president and the prime minister to a court of law and in response he got a telephone call from the then adjutant-general that like Gen Ziauddin he might lose the agriculture land and the Defence Housing Society plot that he had received from the military in return for his services to the Army.

But Kayani did not budge and held a press conference on his last day in the FPSC and exposed the government for its misdoings. Later, the Musharraf regime mulled over arresting him but the Law Ministry advised the government against it. The fighter in Kayani knew this but he was confident and full of courage like always.

He was a religious man, a humble human being, a sincere friend and a true Pakistani. The day when Geo and The News offices were attacked on March 16, 2007, Gen Kayani was the first one to call me and inquire if all was well with me and my colleagues.

On Nov 3, 2007, when Musharraf imposed emergency-cum-martial law in the country, I got back to my home late in the night. Besides my close relations, the man who was waiting for me at my home with a lot of concern about my safety was this respected retired general. Since he could not reach me on my mobile, he rushed to my home to ensure that I was fine. For me, Gen Kayani's departure is a personal loss of a sincere friend and a well-wisher. Allah Almighty may bless his soul.

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