ISLAMABAD - For the first time in the history of Pakistan, differences between two former army chiefs bubbled to surface after Pervez Musharraf accused Ashfaq Parvez Kayani of being ‘principal offender’ in the treason case against him.

General Kayani has the reputation of being a reticent and enigmatic officer. It was an image that he carefully crafted over the years of his military service, often making it difficult for others to read his real intentions. The image was further bolstered by his chain-smoking habit, captured in several pictures that showed the general smoking, his eyes fixed afar, as if pondering the various possibilities of his actions.

Ever since his retirement in 2013 Gen Kayani has characteristically kept silent, avoiding the media glare and generally refusing interviews. But earlier this week, the ‘quiet general’ broke his silence defending his actions as the army chief in an interview to a Saudi news channel.

Controversies have trailed General Kayani since his decision to take an extension of his army chief tenure. They range from the most spectacular - the Abbottabad Operation - to the debatable delay in launching the North Waziristan offensive.

And, controversy also surrounds his relationship with General Musharraf, who handpicked him to lead the Inter-Services Intelligence and later the army. But the political turmoil of November 2007 also led to an eruption of tensions between General Kayani and Musharraf as the latter blamed Kayani for his troubles.

In a statement recorded before the joint investigation team of the Federal Investigation Agency, Pervez Musharraf blamed the country’s senior civilian and military leadership for his decision to impose emergency in 2007 saying they were consulted. Kayani was a surprise addition in the list of alleged abettors.

The 72-year-old - facing treason charges under a case launched in 2013 for suspending the constitution - said General Kayani, who became the Chief of Army Staff on November 27, 2007, did not revoke the emergency. “By not revoking the same, General Kayani is also a principal offender,” he alleged.

He insisted that in addition to General Kayani he had consulted the senior military and civilian leadership, including the then Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, before imposing the emergency. 

Reports said General Musharraf was not happy with General Kayani for not playing active role to save him from humiliation when he was arrested and involved in several cases on his return from abroad in 2013 to contest the elections.

Former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, who was also Musharraf’s personal choice, left the country at the end of his term in 2007 and never returned.

Under the 1973 constitution, abrogation of the constitution will be an act of high treason, liable to death under Pakistan’s treason laws.

This is the first time in the history of Pakistan that a former army chief has blamed another top General of alleged wrongdoing. While Kayani has defended his tenure as the army chief, he has not spoken publicly about the Memo Commission. He refused to hand in an affidavit to the Supreme Court in the case.

Lt. General Abdul Qayyum (retd) said Musharraf was trying to implicate Kayani into the treason case. “I am not defending Kayani. He has his positives and negatives but Musharraf was the dictator at that time so he can’t blame anybody of any role. He took the emergency decision himself,” he added.

Qayum, a Senator of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), said even if Kayani and others had advised him to take the decision, Musharraf should not have committed a ‘suicide.’

He said everybody knew Musharraf was the sole authority at that time so passing on the responsibility was just an attempt to divert attention.

“Even if the Generals asked him to impose emergency, he could have said no. I have been in the army and know the chief can say no anytime. If the civil and military aides had given him a wrong advice, he should have rejected it,” the lawmaker said.

He said Kayani could be considered an abettor only if he had sent a written proposal to Musharraf to enforce emergency rule. “Then even Kayani does not become the principal offender. Musharraf will remain the main accused. The alleged abettors can come to the court and clarify their position if needed,” he argued.

Dr Khurram Iqbal, an analyst, said Musharraf was trying to save his own skin by discrediting his successor. “Kayani supported democracy during his tenure. Musharraf is just aiming to make the case against him weaker,” he remarked.

He said Kayani had a right to respond and there was a possibility of a face-off between the former army chiefs. Kayani retired in 2013 after being the army chief for six years.

It remains to be seen whether Kayani responds or keeps smoking his cigarettes, pondering over the ramifications.