ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan is setting a new precedence by himself taking interviews of candidates for top public offices and in the latest such instance is likely to meet probables to appoint the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) director general, one of the most powerful offices in the country.
Presiding over a hurriedly called meeting of the parliamentary committee of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) at Parliament House, the prime minister assured the worried party leaders that the issue of appointment of new ISI chief had been amicably settled by him and Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and that the government would complete its five-year term.
He denied that the prime minister would take interview of the probables but said: “Prime Minister Imran Khan will just meet all candidates (for the slot of ISI DG)”.
No such interviews have been taken in the past by any prime minister rather the official who is selected as head of the ISI pays a goodwill visit to the prime minister after his appointment.
Earlier, the information minister said in a tweet: “The process for appointing the new DG ISI will be completed soon. The game that a specific section wants to play on this has been defeated. Now it is being said that the prime minister will hold interviews for the new DG ISI. A meeting before such appointments is conventional. Making this process controversial is highly inappropriate.”
In July this year, PM Khan interviewed candidates for the slot of Azad Jammu and Kashmir prime minister in which they were asked about their future strategy and views on environment, tourism and national and international issues.
At that time the information minister had confirmed: “The prime minister is taking lengthy interviews of the candidates in which he is asking questions about environment, tourism, economy, border issues and their future plans.”
The prime minister also disclosed in a meeting that during interviews of PM AJK office candidates, he was approached by different people for “support and favour” for particular candidates, but he (PM) told the aspirants that he would take his own decision without budging to any pressure.
A question arises here that if the prime minister will appoint new DG ISI on the basis of interviews then will he not consider the proposal of the military leadership for the slot and the decision of the COAS. According to military’s media wing, Inter-Services Public Relations the army chief has recently reshuffled the top military hierarchy, transferring ISI DG Lt Gen Faiz Hameed to the post of corps commander Peshawar while appointing Corps Commander Karachi Lt Gen Nadeen Ahmed Anjum as new DG of the ISI. However, an impasse developed on the issue between civil and military leadership as the prime minister was reportedly reluctant to appoint new DG ISI “against the law and constitutional norms”.
According to experts in defence matters, the procedure for appointment of ISI director general is neither mentioned in the Constitution nor the Army Act, and all previous appointments were made as per traditions under which army chief proposes three names to prime minister who then makes the final decision.
It was observed that participants of the PTI parliamentary committee meeting seemed to be nervous and worried when they were entering the committee room-2 of Parliament House to attend the meeting, but they were looking satisfied and relieved when they were leaving the hall.
“The PM told the meeting that civil and military leadership are on the same page and enjoy best ever fraternal relations and that the issue of appointment of ISI DG will be resolved soon amicably,” Fawad Chaudhry said.
According to a source, the PM assured party leaders that the government would complete its five-year term and enjoyed good relations with the military leadership.
When contacted, Mr Chaudhry said: “The notification of new DG ISI will be issued by the prime minister in two to three days.”
He said the prime minister had received a summary which carried names of three nominees for the office of ISI DG, including the one proposed by Gen Bajwa.
On the other hand, the prime minister in the federal cabinet meeting on Tuesday had reportedly said that he wanted incumbent ISI DG Lt-Gen Faiz Hameed to stay for some more time due to critical situation in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Ruling out any differences between the civil and military leadership, the information minister said “both are on the same page”.
He said the process of appointment of ISI DG had started and would be completed soon, adding that: “Things are normal but some people are distorting things to get cheap publicity. We respect the institutions, there are no differences between the army and the government, they are all on the same page.”
The information minister said the PTI parliamentary party also discussed the political situation in the country, the situation in Afghanistan and inflation.
“The prime minister reiterated that Pakistan would not leave Afghanistan alone and humanitarian aid to Afghans will continue,” he added.
He quoted the prime minister as saying: “If the world isolates Afghanistan, then terrorist groups will flourish which will harm not only the Afghans, but also Pakistan and the rest of the world.”
Prominent among those who attended the meeting were: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Fawad Chaudhry, Leader of the House in the Senate Dr Shahzad Waseem, Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri, Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan, Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari, Special Assistant to the PM on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill and Senator Faisal Javed.
After the meeting, Mr Qureshi told media that the meeting focused on Afghanistan situation, Kashmir and inflation.
Asked what the prime minister decided about the appointment of ISI DG, he replied sarcastically: “Some wishes will not be fulfilled. The wishes of opposition will remain unfulfilled.”
Dr Shahzad Waseem told reporters that the government would soon make some important legislation and the prime minister asked party legislators to get complete information about the coming legislation so that they could defend the government on them in the media and public.
Sheikh Rashid said the prime minister gave a briefing on the situation in Afghanistan while the Rehmatullil Aalimeen Authority was also discussed.
Talking about ISI DG’s appointment, he said that all things were “settled” and that the government’s relations with the army were “excellent”. He, however, declined to comment on who the premier would appoint and said that “there was no talk of interviews”.