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Clash over ISI chief’s appointment, rattles Pakistan, keeps region on edge

15/10/2021 at 12:55 PM

By Arun Joshi

It’s a case of a single appointment of Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan that has created unprecedented uncertainty in the country  which  would  have  serious ramifications for India and Afghanistan . An instable Pakistan is a hub of troubles for all its neighbours and the world at large .

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and Army  chief  Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa  have torn the same page concept over the appointment of the new Director General of ISI, one of the most powerful  offices in  the country.

The matters have become complex and reflect the growing differences between the civilian leadership and   all-powerful army in Pakistan .On October 6, Inter Services Public Relations ( ISPR)  announced the appointment of  :Lt. Gen. Nadeem Ahmad Anjum  as the new ISI chief replacing Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed  who was posted as  Corps Commander of Peshawar Corps .

 But days passed , the  notification  for the appointment of Gen. Anjum was not issued. In fact, this has not been issued till date . It has given rise to the  speculations , which  are gradually gaining substance that everything was not right in Pakistani establishment – the army and civilian leadership were virtually on  war path.  The serious  differences over the appointment of the  ISI chief  manifest much graver  situation within. The tussle is going on as to who can make the appointment – Prime Minister or the army chief . There is an impasse  and the space has been filled by the debates as to who is having better claim in making such appointments . This reflects that a situation is in place where such a clash could lead to bigger political troubles in Pakistan .

Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Choudhary  spoke of the authority of Prime Minister  in making these  appointments . Then came the reports that the Prime Minister would interview the army commanders for the powerful post , as it was also given out in  media that Imran Khan  wanted the current ISI chief  Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed to continue in the  post for some more time in view of the situation in Afghanistan . Gen. Hameed was instrumental in crafting the interim Taliban government in Afghanistan last month.

Three scenarios are staring at Pakistan , the region , in particular , for India and Afghanistan. .

One,  whenever the army and civilian leadership have run against each other or they have differed on issues , the neighbouring country  slipped into political instability often leading to military coups . In 1999 when the then  Pakistan Prime Minister   Nawaz Sharif developed differences with the army   in their attitude and approach in the policy matters , Gen. Pervez Musharraf undertook the Kargil misadventure .

Kargil intrusions were engineered , and ultimately the face saving had to be done by the civilian leadership .  Nawaz Sharif had to seek the US intervention to  end the war . Pakistani troops,   facing an imminent defeat at the hands of Indian army , retreated to their side of the Line of Control that  divides Jammu and  Kashmir  between India and Pakistan . Kargil was part of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir until August 2019 , when the government of  India bifurcated the state into two union territories of  Ladakh and J&K,  Kargil is now part of Ladakh  UT.

. Thereafter , the differences grew so much  that Gen. Musharraf toppled the Sharif government through a  military coup in October 1999. What followed thereafter is history .Pakistan ratcheted  up terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir  and other parts of India . The “fidayeen”  attacks gained pace and lethality in Kashmir , and  even after Pakistan had joined the American-led war on terror, it sponsored attack on the Indian Parliament  on December 13, 2001 . This assault led to massive mobilization of the troops to borders. Indian and Pakistani troops, creating a  war-like situation .

Second, it  shows that there  are deep fissures among the ambitious  army commanders in Pakistani army . Had that not been the case, there could not have been delay in notifying the appointment of Gen. Anjum as the new ISI chief. There were contenders, who disputed his appointment  and sought a fresh look at the whole sequence and appointment of  Gen. Anjum as new  ISI chief . And whenever Pakistan army  grapples with these internal problems , apart from settling their own  scores with the civilian leadership, they tend to raise the temperatures at the LoC to embarrass the top brass .

For India, it is a foreboding that the fragile ceasefire at the LoC may be in danger of imminent collapse .. That would be  a  disaster in waiting .

Third,  it is clear that the clash between the army and political leadership in Pakistan would   engineer  clashes within Taliban in Afghanistan It is an open secret  that within Taliban, there are factions and ambitious leaders who want to head and run the government .  Some of them, are working at the behest of ISI .  They are also seeking help of Pakistan’s political leadership to get the international recognition and aid.  Further destabilization in Afghanistan will have grave consequences for the whole of the region , and ,if Pakistan  establishment  works at cross purposes , these dangers will become catastrophic.

About the Author:

Arun Joshi is a senior journalist based in J&K. He has worked with Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express, and The Tribune. He has authored “ Eyewitness Kashmir: Teetering on Nuclear War” and three other books.


This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write up have nothing to do with it.

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