The Federal Government on Tuesday has admitted for the first time that there is a stalemate between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa over the appointment of the new ISI Director-General.
Days after intense speculations regarding the appointment of the new Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the outcome of a ‘long meeting’ between the premier and the COAS over the appointment of the new DG ISI Monday night ended with the Imran Khan telling the Army Chief that the authority to appoint the new spymaster rests with him. Resultantly, the PM Office has yet to issue a notification for the new ISI chief.
Earlier on October 6, ISPR issued a statement about the appointment of Lt Gen Nadeem Ahmad Anjum as the new DG ISI, replacing the outgoing chief General Faiz Hameed. Two days later, it first emerged on social media that the federal government had yet to issue a formal notification for the appointment of the new spymaster.
However, what led to intense rumors regarding the civil-military rift on the issue was the conspicuous silence by both Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The situation escalated further when General Faiz attended the National Security Committee meeting instead of Lt Gen Nadeem Ahmad.
The mainstream media has refrained from taking up the story as the issue falls in the sensitive zone. The matter, however, was discussed in the federal cabinet’s meeting on Tuesday and Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry cautiously spoke on the issue in the news conference following the cabinet meeting.
Surprisingly, two of the most straightforward cabinet ministers couldn’t completely clear the air of suspicion about the issuance of the notification by the PM Office for the new appointment. On Monday, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid had deflected a question about civil-military relations to information and defense ministers while the information minister chose the words carefully on Tuesday when asked to explain what was the exact decision taken during the last night’s meeting between the PM and COAS.
In the news conference after the cabinet meeting, chaired by PM Imran, the government spokesperson didn’t clarify if the notification of the already named DG ISI would be issued or the premier had someone else in his mind. Several political analysts criticized the weak statement when the information minister said that all the legal procedures would be followed for the appointment of the DG ISI, saying, “The authority to appoint DG ISI rests with Prime Minister.”
Sharing more details about the PM-COAS meeting, the minister said both had a long meeting on Monday night and they have close, cordial, and ideal relations. Against the wishes of many, Fawad said that neither the Prime Minister and his office nor the Army Chief or the Army would take any decision that would compromise or disrespect the authority of the other side.
Fawad said, “The PM Office will never undermine the respect of Pakistan Army and the army chief. And the COAS and the army will never take any step that will undermine the respect of Pakistan’s prime minister or civil set-up.”
The Minister added that the appointment would be made through the lawful procedure and both the PM and the COAS were in agreement on the matter.
The minister was asked to confirm if legal procedure or rules and regulations were not followed when the announcement was made that the outgoing DG ISI would be replaced by General Nadeem but he maintained that he has already answered the question.
Although the interior and information ministers remained silent, PTI chief whip Malik Amir Dogar later revealed in a talk show that PM Imran wanted General Faiz to stay as DG ISI for a few more months keeping in view the situation in Afghanistan. During the cabinet meeting, the PTI leader said the prime minister expressed that if the army is a respected institution then the PM Office is also respected.
Dogar said that it’s only PM Imran who could say “absolutely not” to the US and ask the army chief to follow due process.
Dogar confirmed that the new appointment had some kind of lacuna in the process adding that PM also made it clear that he is not a rubber stamp prime minister and would take the decision as per the law. On civil-military standoff, Dogar while referring to his close interaction with the military’s top brass said that the army is not inclined to take over. He said the PM has no other person than Gen Nadeem in his mind yet but his objection was that the due procedure was not followed.