ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – As embattled President Pervez Musharraf and his political opponents grapple over the country’s future, an equally crucial role may be played by a less known figure — a blunt-talking, chain-smoking, golf-playing general who by all reports would like the army to get out of politics.
Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, 55, Musharraf’s designated No. 2 man in the military, is slotted to be the next army chief of Pakistan when Musharraf gives up his uniform, as he has promised to do. That would give him enormous influence in a country with a history of military rule and coups. A major question is just how loyal he and Pakistan’s other generals are to Musharraf during the current crisis.