‘The authority to appoint DG ISI rests with the PM’ announces the government in a major rebuttal to the Pakistan Army. Is PM Khan’s government doomed?

Pakistan’s Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has categorically announced that the appointment of Director General (DG) for the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) is the prerogative of the Prime Minister, thereby effectively rejecting the announcement issued by Pakistani military a few days ago, in which the military had announced a new chief for the spy agency.

“The appointment of the new DG ISI will be done as per the rules and regulations… The authority [to appoint a new DG ISI] rests with the Prime Minister of Pakistan,” the minister told a press briefing earlier today. 

On 6th October, Pakistan’s military media wing the Inter-Services Public relations (ISPR) had announced a major reshuffle with several transfers and new postings including the appointment of Lt. Gen. Nadeem Anjum as the new DG ISI. He was to replace Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed, who was made Peshawar Corps Commander. However, the Prime Minister office, which normally endorses such appointments with an official notification remained silent. 

According to media reports, behind closed doors, Prime Minister Imran Khan told the military chief General Qamar Bajwa that he was not on board with the decision to change the DG ISI which has led to a standoff between the civilian and military leadership. The tussle between the two sides publicly surfaced the first time during the recent National Security Committee meeting, which was attended by Gen. Hameed, as the DG ISI, despite being already transferred out by the military announcement.

This appears to be the first public dispute between Bajwa and Khan, who was brought into power in 2018 with the backing of the military. 

According to insiders, Khan credits Hameed with his victory in office and wants him to continue in the position so that he can secure another term for Khan when general elections take place in 2023. There are also speculations that Khan wants to elevate him to become the army chief next year, when Bajwa finishes his extended tenure in office. However, some argue that with the new law passed by the Pakistani parliament to allow indefinite extensions in the tenure of the army chiefs, it is possible that Bajwa may want to remain in office, and for that reason, he wants a team around him that he can trust, especially within the ISI, and therefore has replaced Hameed with Anjum, so as to strengthen his own position as army chief.

These civil-military tensions come at a time when Pakistan is facing multiple challenges at home and abroad. Inflation has sky-rocketed in the country, touching almost 11%. And then there is the issue of Taliban’s occupation of Afghanistan, which Pakistan is also being blamed for, given it provided refuge for the terror group for the last two decades. 

In the past, whenever such civil-military tensions have surfaced, the army, which has ruled Pakistan directly for half of its existence, has been able to send the civilian government home. And such a track record should worry Khan, who is in office with the help of the military, and lacks genuine political support in the country. 

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