Govt downplays DG ISI appointment impasse

PM Imran describes matter as a ‘technical glitch’, says will be sorted out soon


Rizwan Shehzad   October 14, 2021
Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry speaking to the media in Islamabad. PHOTO: PID

ISLAMABAD:

The government on Thursday downplayed the reported impasse over the appointment of new Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) director general, describing it as a “technical glitch” to be sorted out soon. “The civil-military leadership is onboard in consultation and the decision will be made in a cordial environment,” Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry quoted Premier Imran as saying during a news conference after the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) parliamentary committee meeting on Thursday.

According to sources, PM Imran, while addressing the meeting, said: “There is no misunderstanding between the government and the army … no one has a better relationship with the military leadership than me … the speculation is not correct as there was a technical error that will be corrected.”

The information minister said that all matters related to the appointment of the DG ISI had been finalised and a decision in this regard will soon be made.

In addition, the government’s spokesperson said that PM Imran’s meeting with the candidates before the appointment of DG ISI was a normal practice, and making the process controversial was highly inappropriate, adding that there were no differences between the civil and military leadership as both were on the same page.

“The process of appointing a new DG ISI will be completed soon and the game that a certain section wanted to play on this issue has failed,” the information minister tweeted on Thursday. In addition, the minister stated: “Now it is being said that the prime minister will be interviewing for a new DG ISI. It is a common practice to meet before being appointed to these positions. It is highly inappropriate to make such an action controversial.”

Sharing details of the parliamentary committee meeting, Fawad quoted the premier as saying that the civil-military leadership was on board in the consultation and the decision will be made in a cordial environment. He said that the PM has strongly conveyed to the party leadership that the government and military are on the same page and they enjoyed cordial and close relations.

Fawad feared terrorist and extremist groups would take advantage of the instability if Afghanistan was left alone at this critical juncture, saying it would be detrimental for not only the peace and stability of the region but the entire world. He said that Afghanistan was the focus of the meeting and the PM took the members of the parliamentary party into confidence over the Afghan situation.

Read Govt confirms ‘stalemate’ in DG ISI’s appointment

“Pakistan’s position is that Afghanistan should not be left alone at this time and aid for the war-ravaged country should continue on humanitarian grounds,” he said.

Earlier in a tweet, Fawad tried to defuse the civil-military tensions over the appointment of the new ISI chief when he revealed that consultation between PM Imran and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa for the appointment of the DG ISI has been completed.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed reiterated that the PM apprised the participants of the situation in Afghanistan, explaining what was needed to be done in the coming days.

In the meeting, the interior minister said that the PM has assured that civil-military relations are ideal and both the government and the army have “a very good understanding”. "We [the government] think politically and they [the army] have their own way of doing things,” Rashid said.

To a question, if all is well then who has been appointed as the DG ISI by the premier, Rashid while seeing the PM leaving parliament replied that the question should be asked from him. When asked why the appointment has turned into a controversial issue, Rashid said, “The prime minister was thinking politically and he has some political views. There are some principled issues regarding the procedure of the army that the other side is looking into.”

Almost all those who attended the meeting told the reporters on camera that the premier took the leadership into confidence over the Afghan situation; expressed resolve to control inflation; and discussed electoral reforms, among other issues. Before the meeting, the lawmakers were asked to leave their mobile phones and handbags outside the room, which they did.

Meanwhile, some lawmakers of the ruling party confirmed to The Express Tribune that PM Imran is still adamant to keep Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed as the DG ISI, saying “winter is coming” and he wants to keep the spymaster in view of the situation in the war-wreaked Afghanistan.

The lawmakers said that the prime minister expressed his desire to keep the incumbent DG ISI for some time – at least for the winter season – due to the critical situation in the northwest neighbouring country – Afghanistan.

The phrase “winter is coming” is from the HBO medieval fantasy television series Game of Thrones, whose plot basically revolves around power struggle. The phrase is the motto of House Stark – the lords of the North – and conveys the meaning of warning and constant vigilance.

“The PM wants DG ISI to continue working in the context of the Afghan situation,” at least three party leaders confirmed to The Express Tribune while sharing the details of the meeting. The participants were told that winter will add to people’s miseries on account of Afghanistan's economic situation, extreme levels of poverty, and the rapidly changing situation, adding that Lt Gen Faiz would be a better choice under the current circumstances.

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