ISLAMABAD: The process for the appointment of Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has been underway after completion of consultations between prime minister Imran Khan and army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, the government announced on Wednesday.
On October 6, the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), army’s media wing, had announced the name of Lt Gen Nadeem Ahmed Anjum as the replacement for the outgoing ISI chief, Faiz Hameed. Hameed, according to the ISPR, had been transferred to Peshawar in the northwest as corps commander. Despite the passage of the week after the ISPR announcements, a notification confirming Lt Gen Anjum’s appointment as the new head of the spy agency was not issued by the PM’s office, leading to speculation in Islamabad on the straining civil-military relations.
The announcement by the Pakistani government on Wednesday came a day after Khan’s top political aide Amir Dogar claimed that the PM wanted to retain outgoing spymaster Hameed as ISI chief due to the evolving situation in Afghanistan, while the information minister Fawad Chaudhry had stressed that it was the prerogative of the prime minister to appoint the next chief.
Chaudhry has now said that consultations between Khan and Bajwa have been completed and the process for the new appointment has begun.
Sources confided that later on Wednesday the PM Office received a summary for the appointment of the new ISI chief from the ministry of defence.
The government had remained tight-lipped on the issue after the ISPR announcement and finally broke its silence on Tuesday, saying that the PM wanted to retain Hameed. It was followed by a lengthy meeting between the prime minister and the army chief, prompting the government to announce that the issue has been settled.
According to government authorities, the appointment of the ISI’s chief has been the prerogative of the prime minister and the defence ministry has to recommend him three names. It’s the PM’s discretion to choose one from them or appoint someone else. Experts in defence matters, however, say the procedure for the appointment of the ISI DG is neither mentioned in the Constitution nor the Army Act, and all past appointments were made as per traditions under which the army chief proposes three names to the prime minister who then makes the final decision.
A conversation with senior officials at the ministry of defence revealed that some cracks had emerged in the relationship between the top civil and military leadership in recent weeks over PM’s assertion on retaining the outgoing spymaster. While the PM’s insistence had raised questions about Khan’s possible political motives, the military’s unilateral move by notifying appointment of new spymaster without the PM’s approval had caused a standoff between the two.
The top security leadership has also been said to be seriously concerned over PM’s recent claims and comments on critical foreign policy and security matters during interviews with western media outlets.
The military that has been fighting the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a proscribed umbrella organisation of over two-dozen terrorist groups, for the past 15 years seems to be unwilling on Khan’s handling of the terrorist outfits.
Khan had admitted that he was willing to reconcile with the TTP which had killed thousands of Pakistanis, including kids, women, members of minority communities and civil-military officials among others. He said that his government’s talks with the TTP were part of the reconciliation process and that those who are willing to lay down arms would be pardoned.
The offer of amnesty raises questions about the government’s counterterrorism policy. For the top military brass, the reconciliation move would wipe out the gains made by the security forces in the battle against the terrorist outfits.