Five facts on Pakistan's new army chief, Kayani

Pakistan's vice chief of army staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani fires a sniper rifle during his visit to Tilla Field Firing Ranges November 5, 2007. REUTERS/Inter Services Public Relations/Handout

Reuters - Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf stepped down as army chief on Wednesday, as his hand-picked successor, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the former head of the main spy agency, took over command.

Here are five facts about Kayani.

* Born into one of northern Punjab province’s largest and most powerful clans, Kayani, 55, studied at a military college in his home region of Jhelum, before training at the U.S. army’s Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and the National Defense College in Islamabad.

* After fighting as a lieutenant in the 1971 war against India, Kayani slipped into politics as deputy military secretary to Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 1988. He won accolades for sensitively overseeing troop movements in a tense 2001-2002 border standoff between Pakistan and India as the army’s chief operational commander.

* In September 2003, Kayani was promoted to command the army’s elite 10 Corps in the garrison town of Rawalpindi. The chain smoker headed investigations into two December 2003 assassination attempts against Musharraf, securing several convictions, before being appointed director-general of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agencyin October 2004.

* Closely involved in Pakistan’s anti-terrorism initiatives, the low-profile military man is said to be well-regarded by U.S. counterparts. His promotion to general and appointment as vice army chief in early October came as part of Musharraf’s planned transition to civilian leader.

* This year, Kayani was involved in inconclusive negotiations with Bhutto on a power-sharing deal whereby Musharraf would continue as civilian president and Bhutto, Kayani’s former boss, returned to politics. Seen as largely apolitical, Kayani is also president of the Pakistan Golf Federation with a handicap of 18, according to Pakistan-focused blog The Insider Brief.

Sources: Reuters, The Insider Brief, (