The split is wide open between Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa over the appointment of Lt General Nadeem Ahmad Anjum as the next director general of Pakistan’s all-powerful spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Imran Khan refused to ratify the appointment of Lt Gen Anjum as DG ISI for close to a week after a formal announcement was made by Pakistan Army’s media wing the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) on October 6.
After multiple rounds of messengers traveling between General Headquarters, Rawalpindi and Imran Khan’s office in Islamabad, General Bajwa even went to Imran Khan’s residence at Bani Gala seeking a resolution of the issue but Imran Khan refused to relent. There is now a full-blown crisis in Pakistan over who the next DG ISI would be.
Imran Khan wants Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, the incumbent DG ISI – who oversaw the democratically elected Ashraf Ghani government being evicted from office in Kabul and traveled to Kabul, widely photographed at the Serena Hotel, to ensure Taliban takeover was smooth and Haqqani Network called the shots – to continue in office till the situation stabilised in Afghanistan.
Gen Faiz Hameed is himself keen to take over the Peshawar Corps so that he completes the mandatory one year as corps commander to be in line to be eligible to be the next chief of army staff (COAS) in Pakistan if and when General Bajwa steps down at the end of his current extension as Pakistan COAS.
So, is stability in Afghanistan the reason why Imran Khan wants Lt Gen Faiz Hameed to continue as DG ISI?
Is it civilian supremacy as some in Pakistan make it out to be that Imran Khan wants to have the last word on the appointment of DG ISI?
Or, is the reason closer home? The rumour mill in Pakistan is working overtime. The grapevine has it that Imran Khan called selected prime minister himself is against the selection of Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum as DG ISI for a specific reason.
It is rumored that Imran Khan’s third wife Bushra Biwi, also known as Pinki Peerni, who believes in djinns and has considerable influence over Imran Khan, called for Lt Gen Faiz Hameed’s horoscope and went through it. She is then supposed to have told Imran Khan that she sees ‘dark days’ ahead for him, especially around December where his fortunes will eclipse.
She is also understood to have told him that his stars are aligned to Lt Gen Faiz Hameed and in case Lt Gen Faiz remains as DG ISI till early 2022, Imran Khan will survive as Pakistan’s prime minister beyond December 2021.
Whether this is true or not, nothing else explains Imran Khan taking on Gen Bajwa knowing well all previous Pakistan prime minister who took on the all-powerful Pakistan Army in the past faced the axe, literally and figuratively.
The Pakistan Army has ruled the country directly or indirectly for more than half its entire existence after partition in 1947. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had axed Gen Gul Hasan Khan and Air Marshal Abdul Rahim Khan but was later hanged by his handpicked General Zia ul Haq.
His daughter Benazir Bhutto too took on the all-powerful Lt Gen Hamid Gul and removed him as DG ISI bringing in her favorite retired Lt Gen Shamsur Rahman Kallu as DG ISI but both were outplayed by the Pakistan Army and sacked.
Nawaz Sharif tried to establish civilian supremacy after Pakistan Army’s defeat in Kargil by sacking Gen Pervez Musharraf and bringing in then DG ISI Lt Gen Tajuddin as the COAS but the 111 Brigade carried out a coup, Gen Musharraf took over as the military dictator of Pakistan.
Despite multiple such examples, none ending well for the civilian prime ministers, Imran Khan has challenged Gen Bajwa who has another year in office, courtesy the extension given by Imran Khan himself.
By openly challenging the Pakistan Army over the appointment of DG ISI, has Imran Khan bitten more than he can chew?
Is Imran Khan hoping to exploit fissures within the Pakistan army over the extension given to Gen Bajwa?
Is he hoping to brazen it out with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leaders insisting there is no alternative to Imran Khan?
Neither Pakistan Army nor Imran Khan is on a very strong wicket right now. The economy is in the doldrums and the situation in Afghanistan precarious. To add to Imran Khan’s troubles the joke in Pakistan is US President Joe Biden still refuses to call him and Prime Minister Narendra Modi never returns his calls.
Given this situation, will Pakistan Army de-select Imran Khan? There are several contenders including Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi waiting in the wings to dance to Pakistan Army’s tune.
In Pakistan, it was always said: 3 ‘A’ run the country: America, Army and Allah.
Have the 3 ‘A’ been replaced by 3 ‘B’: Bushra Bibi, Bajwa and Beijing.