While India celebrates Mission Mars success, Pakistan gets busy with new ISI chief

Rizwan Akhtar named new ISI chief
Islamabad, Sept 24: Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar, a close confidante of Pakistan's powerful Army Chief, was on Tuesday named as the new head of the controversial spy agency ISI, enhancing the military's clout over the embattled government facing protests.

Lt Gen Akhtar was promoted as a three-star general and appointed Director General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) as part of a major reshuffle in the military, a development that would help Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif in consolidating his powers amid political instability in the country.

"Maj Gens Rizwan Akhtar, Hilal Hussain, Ghayur Mahmood, Nazir Butt, Navid Mukhtar, Hidayat Ur Rehman" were promoted to next ranks, Director General Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major Asim Bajwa tweeted.

Akhtar was appointed as DGISI, Hidayat was posted to Peshawar Corps, Mukhtar to Karachi Corps, Hussain to Mangla Corps, Mahmood to Gujranwala Coprs and Butt was made chief of communication and Information Technology at the Headquarters.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif gave his approval to these postings on the recommendations of General Sharif.

Lt Gen Akhtar will take over from October 1 when the current ISI chief Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam retires along with four other Lieutenant Generals.

Those retiring are Mangla corps commander Lt Gen Tariq Khan, Gujranwala corps commander Lt Gen Saleem Nawaz, Peshawar corps commander Lt Gen Khalid Rabbani and Karachi corps commander Lt Gen Sajjad Ghani.

Technically and legally the ISI chief is appointed by the Prime Minister on the advice of the Army Chief but the former can seldom have his will.

Usually the Army Chief sends a name as a formality to the Prime Minister, who has to approve it.

Earlier, it was reported that Maj Gen Naveed Mukhtar was also in the running for the top spy job.

Akhtar is a graduate of the Command and Staff College in Quetta, National Defense University and the Army War College, USA, Dawn News reported.

He is from the Frontier Force Regiment and commanded the infantry brigade and infantry division in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

Previously as Sindh DG Rangers, Maj Gen Akhtar had been assigned with the task to lead the Karachi operation.

As head of the paramilitary Rangers force in Karachi he launched a major operation against criminal gangs and Taliban militants.

But the military had later replaced him as DG Rangers Sindh with another senior military officer.

Akhtar is also considered to have extensive experience of counter-insurgency from a previous posting in the border region of South Waziristan.

"He has served in a place like Karachi while remaining neutral and apolitical and has extensive experience of counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism. He was the obvious choice," said a serving military official.

"He is a professional soldier who has experience of both FATA and internal security in Karachi," an army official said.

The appointments are expected to help the army consolidate its position amid political turmoil that has weakened Sharif's position.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and fiery cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek have been protesting against the Nawaz Sharif-led government since August 14, demanding the Prime Minister's ouster.

Khan wants Sharif's resignation over alleged rigging in last year's poll which his party lost, while Qadri wants to bring a revolution in the country.

The appointment comes at a time when army has been accused of instigating unrest in order to weaken Sharif.

Although Pakistan saw its first democratic civilian transfer of power last year, the country has been ruled by the army for much of its history.

The ISI was established in 1948 and became the primary institution running the intelligence operations of the army, air force and navy.

Analysts say that although its precise machinations have remained shadowy, there is little doubt it has played a major role in Pakistan's volatile politics.


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