ISLAMABAD : The Intelligence Bureau (IB) is operating without a director general (DG) for the last three days as Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has failed to appoint the successor despite several names following the retirement of Aftab Sultan on April 2.
The Express Tribune has learnt that a number of administrative, financial and operational matters that require the approval of IB DG are pending due to the absence of the agency’s chief.
“DG is the final authority from day-to-day affairs to organisational adjustments. It is not affordable for a sensitive agency to stay without a DG even for a few hours, let alone days,” official sources told The Express Tribune.
The PM has reviewed a number of names for DG IB appointment following the retirement of Sultan since Monday but is yet to take the final decision. The three names considered by the PM were IB Commandant Academy Mehr Khaliq Dad Lak, IB Joint Director Fawad Asadullah and IB Joint Director Dr Suleman Khan, sources said.
It is learnt that a number of other candidates have also joined the race for IB DG slot. These include Punjab Inspector General Police Arif Nawaz Khan, Federal Investigation Agency DG Bashir Ahmed Memon, National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) National Coordinator Ihsan Ghani, IB Joint Director Shujaatullah Qureshi and National Police Bureau DG Shaukat Hayat.
Fawad Asadullah, Dr Suleman and Shujaatullah Qureshi are officers of basic pay scale 21. All other officers belong to Police Service of Pakistan and are serving in BPS-22. The rest of the police officers are on deputation in the respective departments with the exception of Arif Nawaz.
Officials close to PM said the premier and his government wanted to give Aftab Sultan yet another extension as DG IB but Sultan himself was no more inclined to continue. “Next few months are very crucial. General elections are around the corner and we need a trusted confidante to ‘take care of things.’ A new candidate at the helm would take quite some time to settle down,” sources explained the rationale behind government’s wish that Sultan should continue.
Some officials believed that government functionaries were still trying to persuade Sultan to accept extension for the fourth consecutive term but he was reluctant to accept this offer which explained the delay in the appointment of a new DG. “He (Sultan) thinks that it’s time other officers should be given a chance,” said an official source.
Aftab Sultan was first appointed as the IB DG in October 2011 by former PM Yousaf Raza Gilani. In March 2013, he was appointed as IGP in Punjab by caretaker PM Mir Hazar Khan Khoso ahead of general elections held in May 2013. The next month, in June 2013, former PM Nawaz Sharif appointed Sultan as IB DG.
He retired from service in BPS 22 in 2014 and was given annual extensions in service twice before being given a two-year extension by Sharif in February 2016. Sultan became a trusted confidante of Sharif and played an active role in ‘managing the situation’ during over four-month long protests of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek in 2014.
With regards to the operational side, Sultan is said to be on the forefront in equipping the IB with modernised techniques of espionage and surveillance that helped the security agencies secure major wins in Pakistan’s counterterrorism drive in Karachi, Balochistan and north-western tribal region.
Last year in October, his role as IB chief came under controversy following the surfacing of an alleged list of 37 lawmakers of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz who had alleged connections with sectarian outfits. At least eight legislators named in the list were members of PM Abbasi’s cabinet. Both Abbasi and Sultan dismissed the list as bogus and held meetings with the lawmakers to pacify their concerns.
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