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Spymaster’s Day

It is on record that the ISI chief’s role in Afghanistan, in the aftermath of the Taliban takeover, had not found favour with General Bajwa.

SNS | New Delhi |

The omnipotent GHQ in Rawalpindi has had its way with the notification on the appointment of Lt Gen Nadeem Ahmed Anjum as the new chief of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). He will next month replace the incumbent, Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, who has been shifted as corps commander to Peshawar, a strategic post given its proximity to Afghanistan.

The confirmation comes after weeks of speculation about a rift between the Army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Prime Minister Imran Khan, who reportedly was keen on Gen Hameed continuing in his post. According to the notification, Gen Hameed will remain in charge until 19 November and then make way for Gen Anjum.

Separately, the PMO in a series of tweets said Gen Bajwa had called on the Prime Minister on Tuesday. “The meeting was part of the ongoing consultation process between the Prime Minister and Chief of Army Staff about the timing of change of command in ISI and selection of the new DG ISI,” the statement added.

This precisely was at the core of the three-week delay in formalising the appointments. During the consultation process, “a list of officers was received from [the] Ministry of Defence” following which the Prime Minister “interviewed all the nominees”, the PMO said, adding that a final round of consultations was held between the premier and the COAS on Wednesday.

“After this detailed consultative process, name of Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum was approved as new DG ISI. The designate DG ISI shall assume charge on November 20, 2021.” This elaborate messaging was clearly aimed at saving the Prime Minister’s face, but only emphasised that the civilian government has been compelled to fall in line with the decisions taken by the Army top brass.

Earlier this month, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had denied reports of a standoff, even as Pakistan resonated with talk of the dangerous path the Prime Minister had embarked on to ensure the continuance of Gen Hameed, thought to be his favourite.

It is on record that the ISI chief’s role in Afghanistan, in the aftermath of the Taliban takeover, had not found favour with General Bajwa.

While one school of thought was that Gen Hameed was being given command of a corps to meet a pre-requisite for heading the Army establishment once General Bajwa’s extended tenure ends next year, the preponderance of opinion is that the ISI chief’s wings have been clipped.

Such intrigues are part and parcel of the complex relationship between Pakistan’s military and civilian establishments. That having been said, it is Mr Khan who has emerged weaker with the changes that have now been formalised.