Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010

Gen. Ashfaq Kayani

Highs: Pakistan's army chief steered his country's military — long accused of abetting certain militant extremist groups, including the Afghan Taliban — toward confronting the jihadists in their midst. During the disastrous floods that ravaged Pakistan this summer, Kayani was seen as an energetic and effective figurehead of the relief effort even when the civilian government, led by unpopular President Asif Ali Zardari, in Islamabad, had been pilloried for its sluggish response.

Lows: Kayani's military was still dogged by accusations that it was not doing enough to fight the Taliban and other jihadists operating along the Afghan-Pakistani border. Revelations exposed by WikiLeaks' published cache of U.S. diplomatic cables suggested elements within Pakistan's military intelligence knew the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden and even allegedly protected him. In a surprise move, Kayani had his tenure extended by three years this November. The move has sparked concern in some quarters over the popular army chief's long-term ambitions. Pakistan has a long, troubled history of intervention and rule by military strongmen.

Ishaan Tharoor