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New ISI Chief Appointment Still Pending

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo of Prime Minister Imran Khan. Aamir Qureshi—AFP

PTI serves notice on chief whip in National Assembly for creating ‘wrong perception’ through interview on meeting between Army chief, prime minister

Confusion persists over the appointment of a new Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) director-general despite representatives of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government emphasizing that the relationship between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa is “ideal.”

On Wednesday, sources within the Prime Minister’s House said that the premier had received a summary from the Army chief with a list of candidates for the post of spymaster. Prior to this, Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain posted on Twitter that consultations between Khan and Bajwa on the appointment of a new DG ISI had been completed, and the process for the appointment had begun. “The civil and military leadership has yet again proved that all institutions are united for the country’s stability, integrity and development,” he claimed.

Last week, the military’s media affairs wing announced that Lt. Gen. Nadeem Ahmed Anjum had been appointed the new ISI chief, replacing Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed, who had been posted as Commander Peshawar Corps. Contrary to past practice, the P.M. House did not issue notification of the appointment prompting speculation that the prime minister did not agree with the postings. Nearly a week after the original announcement, the government broke its silence on the issue, with the information minister confirming to press that there had been an “issue” but it had been resolved.

However, amidst speculation that a new notification would be expedited, there has been little movement from the government, with reports emerging on Thursday morning that the prime minister might want to interview the candidates before finalizing his pick for the next director-general of the ISI. Adding to the rumor mill is the ruling party’s issuance of a show-cause notice to its chief whip in the National Assembly, Amir Dogar, for allegedly disclosing details of a Monday night meeting between the prime minister and the Army chief, as well as the prime minister’s remarks at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

According to sources, Dogar has been charged with creating a “wrong perception” politically with his interview. In the interview, he revealed that the prime minister had informed the federal cabinet that he had conveyed to the Army chief that that he wanted incumbent ISI DG Lt. Gen. Faiz to continue “for some months” due to the situation in Afghanistan. Dogar went on to say that the prime minister had stressed to the cabinet that while he fully respected the institution of the Army, the Prime Minister’s Office enjoyed similar respect.

In a press conference on Tuesday, the information minister had emphasized that the prime minister wanted to follow the “legal and constitutional procedure” on the appointment of the ISI chief, suggesting that the original announcement by ISPR had been issued illegally. However, legal experts have noted that the procedure for the appointment of the ISI chief is not mentioned in the Constitution or the Army Act, adding that past appointments were made as per traditions and not any legal compulsion.

Opposition reacts

Speaking to media on Wednesday, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) Vice-President Maryam Nawaz said that while it was the right of a democratically elected prime minister to appoint the ISI chief, a “selected prime minister” had no “legal and moral authority to make top appointment to the national security organizations.”

Criticizing the prime minister for insisting that Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed remain the ISI chief, she alleged that this was because the military official was amenable to political engineering in favor of Khan. To a question, she said Khan’s desire to exert his authority had nothing to do with civilian supremacy, alleging that this situation was created because the PTI chief was looking for means to prolong his rule.

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