Monday February 06, 2023

Inside story of cabinet meeting: PM wants to retain Gen Faiz as DG ISI for a few weeks

PM Imran Khan assured the cabinet that there is nothing to worry about and there is no danger

October 13, 2021
Lt Gen Faiz Hameed. File photo
Lt Gen Faiz Hameed. File photo

ISLAMABAD: The prime minister did not share with the federal cabinet details of the “procedural lapse” that led to a serious controversy over the recent appointments in the military but said that he wanted the incumbent ISI chief to continue for some time in view of the external challenges facing the country, including the situation in Afghanistan.

According to a ministerial source, the prime minister assured the cabinet that there is nothing to worry about and there is no danger. He also repeated his usual sentence ‘aap ne ghabrana nahin hai’. The News cross-checked these facts from another minister, who endorsed the story.

The premier told that cabinet that he and the army chief enjoy the best relationship, mutual respect, and institutional cooperation. He said that the army has been supporting his government like never before. According to sources, the premier said that he acknowledges the cooperation and role of the army chief and the military establishment in supporting his government.

The source said that the prime minister explained that he had a meeting with the army chief the previous (Monday) night and would speak to him again on Tuesday (after the cabinet meeting). The PM, according to the source, said that he wants Lt Gen Faiz Hameed to continue for some time as the coming few weeks are critically important on matters concerning external challenges in general and relating to Afghanistan in particular.

The premier, the ministerial sources said, told the cabinet that Gen Faiz knows the Afghanistan situation extremely well and is already in contact with all the key individuals in the outside world. The premier feared that it would take some time for a new ISI chief to understand the situation and establish contacts in these critically important weeks. The premier assured the cabinet that the issue would be settled and there is nothing to worry about. The premier wants Gen Faiz to stay in office for just three to four weeks.

Tuesday's press briefing by Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on what was decided and discussed in the cabinet meeting, reassured the public that both the prime minister and the army chief would not let the matter affect relations on either side. However, he left the question of who the new ISI chief would be unanswered.

He underlined that the appointment of the DG ISI is the prerogative of the prime minister besides explaining that “legal procedures” would be followed for the appointment of the DG ISI.

Chaudhry smartly skipped all those questions that could have furthered the controversy if not handled carefully.

It is still not clear whether the prime minister would formally approve what has already been announced by the ISPR or would appoint someone else as the DG ISI. Procedures, which include moving a summary for the prime minister through the Defence Ministry along with a panel of three officers as found fit by the army chief, does not take much time. It could be done in hours.

Sources close to the military as well as a few ministers approached by The News said in confidence that the Monday night meeting between the prime minister and the army chief was positive and the two would conclude the matter amicably as well. Neither the ministers contacted, nor the sources close to the military have any idea of when and how the matter would conclude.

“It is between the prime minister and the army chief,” a federal minister confided to The News, adding that they will decide between themselves what would unfold in the days to come. The federal minister was non-committal about whether the DG ISI’s appointment would be the same as was announced by the ISPR or someone else may be appointed by the prime minister.

“The prime minister and the army chief will decide this,” the minister said.

A retired general, who often appears on TV talk shows and is close to the military top brass, told The News that the issue has been resolved. But when probed, he too could not specify how the issue has been resolved and whether or not the change in the ISI would be the same as was announced by the ISPR.