ISLAMABAD: Lieutenant General Zaheer-ul Islam, Commander 5-Corps (Karachi), has been appointed the new Director-General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to succeed Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, who will retire on March 18.
Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani on Friday appointed Lt. General Zaheer-ul Islam as the new DG ISI. Gen Islam has already served the organisation, thus bringing with him rich experience in the fields of internal security and intelligence.
Director-General Rangers, Sindh, Lt Gen Ijaz Chaudhry, has been shifted to Karachi as Commander 5-Corps while Maj Gen Rizwan Akhtar, GOC 9-Div, Peshawar, will succeed Lt Gen Ijaz Chaudhry as DG Rangers, Sindh.
The new DG ISI hails from Kahuta (Murree) where he served as GOC during the Musharraf era. Following weeks of consultations at the highest civil and military levels, two important decisions were taken in a meeting of the president, the prime minister and the army chief last week: no more extensions as DG ISI for Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, who has already availed it twice; and the appointment of a new DG ISI.
Belonging to 13-Punjab (Infantry), Lt Gen Zaheer-ul Islam was promoted to the present rank last year and shifted to Karachi as Commander 5-Corps, after he served more than 3 years as DG (C) in the ISI. He had been dealing with internal security.
Gen Zaheer is known in military circles as an honest, hardworking and upright person. “It is the right choice at the right time,” a retired 3-star general said.
ìHis appointment marks a clear shift in the thinking of the military and civilian leadership in the sense that he has no connections, whatsoever, with the Americans unlike Pasha who had a large circle of American friends and those regarded as Americanised. Zaheer has a crystal-clear career with no American connections or background,” said one of Gen Islam’s friends.
Gen Zaheer-ul Islam’s appointment is critical from three aspects: the expected thaw in Pak-US relations and the Afghan situation; Pakistan entering into election year with a lot of polarisation; and deep-seated tension between the civil and military leadership.
In Lt Gen Zaheer’s appointment as DG ISI, Army chief General Kayani got his trusted person to head the elite intelligence organisation, though Lt Gen Pasha too enjoyed his full confidence and often used to talk to the Americans on behalf of the army chief, and served as a kind of interlocutor during a period of tense military-to-military relations between Pakistan and the United States.
Highly placed circles say that Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani had sent a list of 3-star generals to the government with the request to appoint one of them as DG ISI. The list included the names of Lt Gen Zaheer-ul Islam, commander 5-corps - Karachi, Lt Gen Rashid, commander 4-corps - Lahore and Lt Gen Raheel Sharif, commander 30 corps - Gujranwala.
Circles privy to the development said that defence secretary Nargis Sethi asked for a full list of all 3-star generals so that the prime minister could have an overview of the careers of all such officers before picking up one for the slot.
“It was this development that resulted in a meeting between the president, the prime minister and the army chief where the latter requested the government to pick one from the list he has sent to the defence ministry,” said the circles. In this regard the statement recently made by defence minister Ch Ahmed Mukhtar is being quoted as proof. Mukhtar had told the press that the prime minister has the right to choose the new DG ISI.
Zaheer-ul Islam’s father retired as a colonel and his brothers - Azhar-ul Islam, Fakhar-ul Islam and Mazhar-ul Islam ñ also retired as military officers, as did his brother-in-law.
Zaheer served as DG (C) in the ISI before he was promoted as a 3-star general and moved to Karachi as corps commander. He was GOC Murree for some time before coming to the ISI. He also served as Chief of Staff in the Army Strategic Force Command.
Surprisingly, Lt Gen Islam, who is coming from Karachi, will head the team of two other major generals in the ISI who also came to the ISI directly after serving in Karachi - Maj Gen Asfandyar Patudi (former GOC in Karachi) and Maj Gen Arif Warriach (former sector commander ISI in Karachi as Brigadier).