Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar, an intelligence veteran, has been appointed chief of Pakistan’s powerful spy agency ISI with new army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa effecting the first big reshuffle to tighten his hold on the military that plays a key role in the country’s affairs.
As part of a major shake-up of the military top brass, Bajwa abruptly removed Director-General of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar and named Mukhtar in his place while also ringing in several other changes.
Lt Gen Akhtar, who was at the centre of a controversy following a Dawn newspaper report which said that the Nawaz Sharif government had told the army to either act against terrorists or the country would face international isolation, has been shunted to President National Defence University (NDU).
The nomination of the new ISI chief was delayed for a short time as initially army announced that the incumbent head was removed and appointed as president of NDU. However, later in the night, the new ISI boss was also named, ending speculation.
Akhtar possesses a vast experience in the field of intelligence and has headed the counter-terrorism wing of the spy agency in Islamabad. He was commissioned in the Armoured Corps regiment in 1983.
A graduate of the Command and Staff College, Quetta, National Defence University, Islamabad, and War Course USA, Mukhtar has also commanded a Mechanised Division.
There was speculation sometime back that Prime Minister Sharif wanted to appoint Mukhtar as ISI chief but then army chief Raheel Sharif resisted the move.
Technically, ISI should be answerable to the Prime Minister who should also appoint its chief but over the years the army chief has earned the prerogative of nominating the head of Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency.
It is believed that the new ISI chief enjoys the confidence of both the civilian and military leadership and it would go a long way in healing differences between them, observers said.
The military has been in charge of the country for more than half of Pakistan’s nearly 70-year history since independence.
As part of other major changes in the army’s top brass, according to an army statement, newly-promoted Lt Gen Bilal Akbar has been appointed Chief of General Staff while Lt Gen Nazir Butt – presently President of the NDU – has been appointed Corps Commander Peshawar (11 Corps), replacing Lt Gen Hidayat-ur Rehman.
Rehman has been appointed Inspector-General Training and Evaluation (IGT&E) at General Headquarters (GHQ).