Thursday May 30, 2024

General Asim becomes third ISI chief to lead Pakistan Army

By Sabir Shah
November 25, 2022

LAHORE: After Generals Khawaja Ziauddin Butt and Ashfaque Parvez Kiyani, Syed Asim Munir Ahmed Shah now becomes the third Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General to lead the Pakistan Army, research shows.

General Asim, also a Sword of Honour winner, had served as the 23rd Director General of the ISI from October 25, 2018 to June 16, 2019, till he was replaced by Lt. Gen Faiz Hameed (Corps Commander Bahawalpur these days).

At the time he was picked for the honour on Thursday (November 24, 2022), General Asim was the most senior officer amongst the list of generals, who otherwise were also qualified to win keys to the powerful office had the principle of seniority not been given due weightage by the incumbent Shehbaz Sharif-led government.

But this is the first time the PMLN has chosen the senior-most general for the slot of Army Chief.

In the past, Nawaz Sharif and Co had picked five army chiefs and none of them was senior-most.

General Khawaja Ziauddin Butt could enjoy the privilege for a few hours only on October 12, 1999, when he was arrested along with the-then premier, Nawaz Sharif, on the orders of the sitting army chief General Pervez Musharraf, who had returned from Sri Lanka.

Nawaz Sharif had appointed General Ziauddin as the Army Chief during Musharraf’s absence from the country. General Ziauddin, who was the ISI’s boss from October 1998 to October 12, 1999, was kept in solitary confinement for two years, and was subjected to three army investigations.

After Ziauddin, the second ISI chief to spearhead the Pakistan Army between November 2007 and November 2013, was General Ashfaque Parvez Kiyani. As ISI chief, General Kiyani had called the shots between October 5, 2004 and October 8, 2007.

However, research shows that at least four of the 35 Chiefs of General Staff, who have served the Pakistan Army till date, have led the Pakistani military in the past.

Appointed as 18th Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Sahir Shamshad Mirza, was also a Chief of the General Staff (abbreviated as CGS), as was his predecessor, General Nadeem Raza.

Chief of the General Staff is the most coveted position within the Pakistan Army after that of the Chief of the Army Staff, and is the organisational lead on both intelligence and operations.

Since 1985, a three-star Lieutenant General is appointed to this post.

In the past, four army chiefs — Generals Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan (1957 to 1962), Mirza Aslam Beg (June 1980 to October 1985), Lt. General Asif Nawaz Janjua (April 1991 to August 1991) and Lt. General Jehangir Karamat (July 1994 to January 1996) — had all been posted as Chiefs of the General Staff. Historically, most army chiefs have essentially appointed their most trusted aides as Chiefs of the General Staff and Commander 10 (X) Corps. General Sahir Shamshad is the current Commander X Corps.

A peek into country’s military history shows that when former Army Chief General Ziauddin Butt was nominated by the-then prime minister Nawaz Sharif in place of General Pervez Musharraf, he (General Butt) had passed his first orders to appoint Lt Gen Muhammad Akram as CGS and Lt Gen Salim Haider as Commander, 10 Corps.

But before this order could be conveyed to the rest of the army, Generals Aziz and Mahmud had taken steps to reverse the PM’s order by overthrowing his government. General Musharraf had hence prevailed.

Another Chief of the General Staff, Major General Mohammed Akbar Khan, was convicted of an attempted coup (Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case) against premier Liaquat Ali Khan’s government in 1951. He was also known as “General Tariq,” and had played a major role in mobilising, planning, and leading the Kashmir campaign.

A trial was held for the 15 individuals accused – Maj. Gen. Akbar Khan, Air Commodore M. K. Janjua, Maj. Gen. Nazir Ahmed, Brigadier Sadiq Khan, Brigadier M. A. Latif Khan, Lt. Col. Ziauddin, Lt. Col. Niaz Muhammad Arbab, Captain Khizar Hayat, Maj. Hassan Khan, Major Ishaq Muhammad, Captain Zafrullah Poshni, Mrs. Naseem Shahnawaz Khan (General Akbar’s wife), Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Sajjad Zaheer and Muhammad Hussain Ata. After an 18-month trial conducted in secrecy, Major General Akbar Khan and Faiz Ahmed Faiz were both convicted and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. Their defence lawyer was the notable Bengali Muslim politician, Huseyn Shaheed Suharwardy.

When Suharwardy became the Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1957, he obtained a reprieve for most of the conspirators.

General Akbar had later served as the Chief of National Security under premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. And it was under his guidance that the Pakistan Army had quelled the Baloch insurgency during the mid-1970s.

Late General Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmad, the cousin of PTI leader Yasmeen Rashid, was also a CGS.

He was second on the seniority list (after Chief of the General Staff Lt. General Zubair Hayat) in 2016, but the-then prime minister, Nawaz Sharif had appointed Lt General Qamar Javed Bajwa as the army chief.