Nirupama Subramanian

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Army has won another round of praise for moves that have been seen as helping the democratically elected civilian government consolidate its powers while distancing itself from President Pervez Musharraf.

Earlier this week, Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani broke with precedent and gave a briefing to Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani and the leaders of all the ruling coalition partners on the security situation, at the Prime Minister’s official residence.

The Nation said the meeting was an indicator that “the centre of gravity is gradually shifting from the presidency to the Prime Minister’s House” for two reasons.

“First the venue of the meeting and second the absence of President Musharraf. Under the system that remained in place till the handing over of power to the present government, it was inconceivable for any briefing of the sort to be held at the Prime Minister’s House or be presided over by anyone except the President”

General Kayani briefed Mr. Gillani, PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, PML(N) leader Nawaz Sharif, Awami National Party leader Asfandyar Wali Khan, and leader of the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islami Maulana Fazlur Rehman.

According to an official statement, the Prime Minister “decided to undertake a detailed evaluation of the situation and come up with political policy guidelines to address the problem of terrorism and extremism through a comprehensive strategy based on political engagement and economic development and backed by a credible military element”.

The Post said the Army chief’s move “deserves to be welcomed.”

It said it showed the General understood that it was important for the military to show “solidarity” with the civilian leadership.

The Army also announced last week that it had ordered the immediate withdrawal of hundreds of serving officers and men from civil departments of government, hours after Mr. Gillani said in the National Assembly he wanted them to be withdrawn within two weeks. The decision won much praise.

The Post said the briefing to the political leaders showed that the military was taking the political leadership into confidence about the military operation and “would not take any significant decisions vis-À-vis the war on terror without the Parliament’s consent.”

Reshuffle

After a reshuffle that saw two corps commanders being replaced, General Kayani has made another change in the top hierarchy that is being seen as a move to put his own imprint on the force.

On Wednesday, he changed the Director-General of Military Intelligence, appointing Major-General Muhammed Asif in place of Major General Mian Nadeem Ejaz Ahmed.

Major-General Nadeem Taj, head of ISI, was appointed by General Musharraf just before he quit as Army chief last year.

General Taj continues in his post, but the head of the civilian Intelligence Bureau, Brigadier (retd) Ijaz Shah, quit last month, and is yet to be replaced.