Delay over ISI chief’s appointment tells about civil-military relations, say experts

Hassan Naqvi Staff Reporter

25th Oct, 2021. 09:35 pm
Lt Nadeem

Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum. Photo: File

The tension-filled three-week deadlock over the appointment of new Director General (DG) Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) is likely to be settled anytime soon now after the Prime Minister’s office received the summary from the defence ministry and the Premier also met Lieutenant General Nadeem Ahmed Anjum on Wednesday, sources told Bol News.

The notification of DG ISI could be issued anytime now as the deadlock over the appointment of DG ISI has been amicably resolved, with the civil and military leadership said to be on the same page now, the sources told Bol News.

It is pertinent to mention that the deadlock over of the appointment of DG ISI has gripped the nation during the past few weeks and has been a topic of hot debate and discussion in the media as well as at every talk show on the leading television channels since early this month..

The issue snowballed into a major controversy after the federal government did not notify the new DG ISI’s appointment despite the announcement made by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) on October 6.

This development sparked rumours that the civil and military leadership are not on the same page.

What gave the rumours some credence was when the government also confirmed that ‘proper procedure’ had not been followed for the appointment of DG ISI.

So in order to defuse the tension and overcome the prevalent deadlock, the premier and Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa held a detailed meeting last week.

The sources, however, said that the Federal government was using the delaying tactics as they wanted Lt. General  Faiz Hameed to continue as DG ISI for some more time, the sources said.

When asked about the sentiments within the army about the whole controversy, prominent defence analyst Lieutenant General (retd) Amjad Shoaib told Bol News that the sentiments were not a major issue in the army as Chief of Army Staff (COAS) handles everything at the level of core commanders.

“But the real thing which needs to be taken into account is that can the premier also support and implement the system which Army follows because the army has developed a proper mechanism of career management including transfers, postings and promotions where things are very organised and merit based,” said Amjad Shoaib.

“If this mechanism is disturbed it will become like a police department. Therefore, to keep things under his control, the COAS keeps a lot of things under his own domain and normally, merit and suitability of the candidate isconsidered before giving him any assignment or role in the army,” said Shoaib.

He maintained that the army will resist if the federal government doesn’t appoint the DG ISI as recommended by them. “But I think PM Imran will appoint DG ISI as recommended by the army very soon,”he said.

“The delay in the notification of DG ISI is probably because the federal government wants to delay things for a few months, with Lt. General Faiz Hameed as DG ISI because PTI believes that he (Faiz) should serve as DG ISI for more time. So, in that way they would give this impression that they have listened to the army as well and also time has been gained with the current DG ISI,” Shoaib added.

He further said that raising this issue (delay in notification) was a useless thing because before this two former DG ISIs – Lt. General Asim Munir and Lt. General Faiz Hameed – were appointed during PM Imran Khan’s tenure and no such issue was raised at those times.

“There is no other issue that we could say that the system (political setup) is in danger or it would lead to some bigger crisis. There is nothing of this sort but it would have been better if this issue had not been brought to public platforms or on media,” he observed.  “As it appears, the notification of General Anjum will be issued in a few days and the issue will be completely resolved,” he said.

Speaking to Bol News, Lt. General (retd) Ghulam Mustafa said that the DG ISI appointment issue shouldn’t have been made so complicated or discussed in public, whatever the reasons are. But our decision making is of the sort that we make an issue of just about everything. This is a case of just one appointment but it has uneccessarily lingered on which has obviously been an embarrassment for the federal government.

“But some uncertainty within the department (Army) is obviously there on the appointment of DG ISI,” he claimed.

Mustafa said that there is a very simple way of such appointments. “Whenever the time comes for the appointment of DG ISI, the COAS discusses it with the premier and the announcement is made “I am sure that General Bajwa would have carried out the discussion with PM Imran on this issue about why General Faiz has to be changed now as it is the question of his (Faiz) career.

“As his (Faiz) role has been openly discussed in political circles and some political leaders were even targeting him and alleging his role in politics openly, so it is better for him to be replaced as he is also on seniority list and to be considered as Army Chief in future,” Mustafa said.

“I am sure that General Bajwa would have informed about the new officers who are available for the key position of DG ISI and would also have shared the list of probable candidates and whom he (General Bajwa) considered to be the best officer for the job.I am sure the premier would have given the nod after which the ISPR would have issued the notification on October 6,” he said.

“But it is quite surprising that the new DG ISI was announced on October 6 but his name started doing rounds many days earlier on the social media,” Lt Gen (retd) Mustafa said.

He insisted that the Army doesn’t leak such news until the appointment or transfer is final, so it is obvious that wherever these things were discussed they were leaked on the social media.  “But I am sure that the issue has been resolved now and the notification will be issued soon,” General Mustafa said.

Mustafa added that there is one thing which general public doesn’t understand that ISI is an institution which is not independent and DG ISI is also given a policy from the government, taking into account the suggestions of all stakeholders. “They (ISI) doesn’t take decisions on ïts own.”

“ISI works as an institution and transfer or posting of its head doesn’t make much of a difference. I believe the prime minister’s office must have a complete knowledge of this as many senior bureaucrats are there. Let’s hope that such a thing never happens again in future,” Mustafa said.

“There is one more thing which is important, that the buck stops at the prime minister of Pakistan as this is his prerogative whom he want to appoint. So in such a scenario that delay in notification or no clarity on the selection process which is in his mind is not good for PM and the Primie Minister’s office itself in my opinion.”

Agreeing with Lt. General Shoaib and General Mustafa, acclaimed columnist and analyst Yasmeen Aftab Ali told Bol News that the ongoing discussion on appointment of ISI Chief in the media and wild speculations flying around are condemnable.

“Agencies around the world appoint persons to sensitive appointments, it is not debated the way this appointment was in Pakistan,”she said.

“Government would have done well not to have allowed its party members to issue press statements on the subject. It has unnecessarily muddied waters. Let us wait for the formal appointment/announcement,” she said.

“If one sees the notification issue as a problem, then certainly it is a big problem, says Ahsan Raza, a leading analyst from Lahore, when asked to comment on the delay in notification of the ISI DG issue. “In my view, business as usual can be seen around; the PM is holding Seerat conferences while the army chief is taking briefing from the DG whose next assignment has been notified,” he observed. “It is the media circus that is going out of control, otherwise both major players are in ‘business as usual mode’.”

When asked to comment on the possible sentiments in the army about the entire episode, Ahsan said that the disciplined force is above sentiments and emotions.  “They seem hardly perturbed at the withholding of the notification. The intelligence agency works under the army institution where the DG is there only to get the army strategy executed,” he said. “So whosoever heads the agency does not and cannot benefit Imran Khan too much,” he added.