ISLAMABAD: Pakistani information minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said on Wednesday the process to appoint a new head of the powerful ISI military spy agency had begun after consultations between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa had concluded.
Hussain’s tweet comes a day after he told a press conference in Islamabad that the authority to appoint the DG ISI chief rested with the prime minister’s office amid widespread media speculation about an alleged rift between Khan and Bajwa over last week’s appointment of Lt Gen Nadeem Ahmad Anjum as DG ISI.
The army is arguably the most influential institution in Pakistan, with the military having ruled the country for about half of its 74-year history since independence from Britain and enjoying extensive powers even under civilian administrations.
By turn, the head of the ISI occupies one of the most important posts in Pakistan. He is customarily appointed by the prime minister on the advice of the army chief.
Though Gen Anjum’s appointment was announced by the army’s media wing on October 6, the PM House has not yet released an official notification about the posting, fueling speculation about a disagreement.
Hussain said on Tuesday the army chief and the prime minister had a “very long meeting” on Monday night on the issue.
On Wednesday he said consultations between the two leaders been “completed.”
“The process for the new appointment has begun,” the information minister said in a tweet, adding that civilian and military leadership had once more proved that all institutions were united for “the country’s stability, integrity and development.”
A day earlier, Hussain said the “legal procedure” would be followed in the appointment of the new DG ISI, “for which both [Gen Bajwa and Prime Minister Khan] are in agreement.”
“The prime minister and the army chief have a very close and a very pleasant relationship,” the minister said. “The relationship between the civil [government] and the army is ideal.”
“The Prime Minister Office will never take a step due to which the respect of the Pakistan army and the army chief will be reduced,” he added. “The Pakistan army and army chief will also not take any steps due to which the respect of the Pakistani prime minister or the civil set up will be reduced.”
While announcing the new DG ISI last week, the army also transferred the current head of the ISI, Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, as Corps Commander Peshawar. Gen Hameed is widely considered close to the prime minister.
The ISI is widely believed to have a hidden role in making many of the nuclear-armed nation’s policies, including on Afghanistan and India. The threat to Pakistan from nuclear-armed neighboring India has been a main preoccupation of the ISI through the decades.