Imran Khan names new ISI chief ending standoff with Pakistan Army
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday approved the appointment of Lt Gen Nadeem Ahmed Anjum as the next chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, ending an unprecedented standoff on the issue with the powerful army.
The differences between Khan and the army over the appointment had resulted in speculation about the future of the government headed by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party. There were even fears in political circles about a change at the highest levels of the government if the army decided not to continue propping up Khan.
A statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office in Islamabad said Khan had “seen and approved the appointment” of Anjum as the director-general of the ISI from November 20. It added that the current ISI chief, Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, would continue to hold the post till November 19.
The face-off between Khan and the army began when the military issued a statement to the media on October 6 naming Anjum as the next ISI chief, replacing Hameed.
According to convention, the army forwards the names of three lieutenant generals to the prime minister, who picks one as the ISI director-general. Though the formal announcement about the choice is made by the PM, it is widely understood that the army chief conveys which of the three officers should be picked for the post.
Under a reshuffle announced by the army on October 6, Hameed was to be moved out of the ISI to head Peshawar-based XI Corps. A stint in an operational command is needed to put Hameed in contention for becoming army chief after the current chief, Gen Qamar Bajwa, completes his extended term in November 2022.
Khan, however, continued to hold up a formal announcement about the next ISI chief as different theories did the rounds in Pakistan. Some said Khan believes Hameed should be retained as the ISI chief for an extended period because of the role he played in shaping developments in Afghanistan and in liaising with the Taliban.
After differences emerged among the Haqqani Network and other Taliban factions over forming a setup in Kabul, Hameed rushed to Kabul to cobble together an interim cabinet that put hardliners in control.
There was speculation that Khan’s wife, a pirni or spiritual guide, had suggested the time was not auspicious to make a change in the ISI. Similar speculation swirled again on Tuesday over the move to retain Hameed as the ISI chief till November 19.
Though Hameed accompanied foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on his recent first visit to Kabul since the Taliban assumed power in mid-August, the ISI chief did not join Khan for a visit to Saudi Arabia last week as had been anticipated.