Days after intense speculations regarding the appointment of the new director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the federal government on Tuesday confirmed 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 spymaster.
The matter is so serious that the outcome of a ‘long meeting’ between the prime minister and the COAS over the appointment of the new DG ISI Monday night ended with the premier 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.
On October 6, the military’s media wing issued a statement regarding 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 rumours regarding the civil-military rift on the issue was the conspicuous silence by both Islamabad and Rawalpindi. It escalated further when Gen Faiz attended the National Security Committee meeting instead of the new spy chief.
The mainstream media refrained itself from picking up the story sensing the sensitivity surrounding the issue and the parties involved in it. 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 after the cabinet meeting.
Surprisingly, for a second consecutive day, two of the most outspoken cabinet ministers couldn’t completely clear the air about the issuance of the notification by the PM Office for Nadeem’s appointment. On Monday, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid had deflected a question about civil-military relations to information and defence 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.
READ Authority to appoint ISI chief rests with the prime minister: Fawad
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 eyebrows were raised 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 he would like to tell that neither the PM and his office nor the army chief or the army would take any step that would undermine or disrespect the authority of the other side.
“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,” Fawad said, adding that appointment would be made through 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 it was announced that the outgoing DG ISI would be replaced by General Nadeem but he maintained that he has already answered the question.
Though the interior and information ministers remained tight-lipped, 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.
There was some kind of lacuna in the appointment process, he confirmed, adding that PM also made it clear that he is not a rubber stamp prime minister and would take 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.
Among other key issues, the information minister said that the cabinet has approved setting up the Rehmatul-lil-Aalameen Authority aiming to make the country and the world aware of Islam and the life of Holy Prophet (PBUH). The authority’s purpose is to highlight the true image of the Prophet and Islam in the world, he said, adding that it’s a deliberate attempt to set a new narrative.
On the funeral of nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer, Fawad said at least 15 ministers, chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, the naval chief, among others had attended the funeral. To a question as to why the premier didn’t attend the funeral despite being present in Islamabad, he said PM Imran was out of city or else he would have attended the funeral.
In addition, he said, the cabinet approved automation of power of attorney for the overseas Pakistanis, adding that the people will not have to spend time and money or go to embassy for getting the power of attorney.
Also, the cabinet approved inclusion of CPEC Authority visas in online visa system; waiver of visa processing fee for three months for Afghanistan nationals applying for Pakistan visas from Afghanistan; reconstitution of PEMRA Council of Complaints; issuance of license for Air Sial; and raising the specialised riot police force. The cabinet also approved inclusion of Afghanistan in the Business Visa List. A demand for Rs2.4 billion for a special economic zone was deferred.