THIS list does what most others do not. The Forbes roll of the most powerful people on earth includes Gen Ashfaq Kayani, which was not unexpected given Pakistani army chiefs have always been among the most influential in the world — for whatever reason. What makes the list special is the rare instance it provides of a Pakistani improving his or her ranking. Gen Kayani was rated 29th in 2011 and is 28th this year. Some two dozen posts adrift, at number 52, stands Lt Gen Zaheer-ul-Islam, chief of the ISI which in its own right is known for its clout.
The magazine describes some recent court observations “holding the military accountable for human rights abuses and political meddling” as representing a “low light” for the general. However, this new factor has not had any real impact on the ranking which appears to attach considerable significance to a person’s international value, along with their importance in the area and field they belong to. Consequently, both Gen Kayani and Lt Gen Islam being America’s allies in the ‘war on terror’ is a factor of critical import. Lt Gen Islam’s first visit to the US is described as a “highlight” and ISI, the magazine says, “will be hugely influential in determining the region’s future”. Obviously, given the angle from where the jury has appeared to have selected the entries, there is little room for any other Pakistani to make the list. It was out of the scope of this exercise to analyse why Pakistan continues to be represented by its generals in comparison to political and business faces emerging on the chart of honour elsewhere. But the point does add to the never-ending list of occasions where Pakistanis have wondered about the old tag of a nation governed by the army sticking to them despite grand pronouncements about democracy.