Islamabad, May 20 (IANS) Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Thursday termed as ‘inappropriate and premature’ the defence minister’s assertion that army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s tenure would not be extended, an indication that this could well be on the cards.
Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar’s statement earlier this week that Kayani, who is due to retire in October, would not be given an extension was ‘inappropriate and premature and he should not have given such a statement’, Gilani said during an interaction with senior journalists here.
A decision on this would be taken ‘when the time for it comes and so far no decision has been made’, Online news agency quoted the prime minister as saying.
Gilani’s comments could well be taken to mean that the issue was being considered, given Kayani’s track record in the military operations against the Taliban in Pakistan’s restive northwest, analysts here said.
Speculation had begun earlier this year on whether Kayani’s tenure would be extended, given the frostiness in his relations with President Asif Ali Zardari.
However, the repeal in April of the controversial 17th amendment completely changed the equations as key powers, including those to appoint the service chiefs, were returned to the prime minister’s office from the presidency to which then military dictator Pervez Musharraf had transferred them in 2002.
In contrast to Zardari, Kayani’s relations with Gilani are described as cordial.
In fact, Kayani, along with Gilani, had read Zardari the riot act in March last year when he was soft-pedalling on a pledge to reinstate the Supreme Court judges Musharraf had sacked after imposing an emergency Nov 3, 2007.
This had prompted the lawyers to stage a ‘long march’ to Islamabad. Zardari caved in when the procession entered Islamabad.
Kayani, described as a ‘quiet man’, became the army chief Nov 29, 2007 when Musharraf, who was wearing twin hats, stepped down from the post.
He is credited with planning the anti-Taliban operations that began last June in Swat and three other districts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), now renamed Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa, that the militants had virtually taken over.
The operations later shifted to the North and South Waziristan areas of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The military estimates that some 3,000 Taliban fighters have been killed in the operations, which are now shifting to the North Waziristan area.