New ISI chief Naveed Mukhtar an intelligence veteran, headed counterterrorism wing in Islamabad

Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar has been appointed chief of Pakistan's powerful spy agency ISI as part of the first major reshuffle in the military's top brass after new army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa took over the reins last month.

The army issued a statement in which it said that Bajwa, who took over from Gen Raheel Sharif two weeks ago, appointed Mukhtar as Director-General of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) replacing Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar, who was at the centre of a controversy following a Dawn newspaper report which said that the Nawaz Sharif government had told the army to either act against terrorists or the country would face international isolation. Lt Gen Akhtar has been appointed as President of the National Defence University.

By turn, the head of the covert arm of the Pakistani military, the ISI occupies one of the most important posts in Pakistan. The agency has long been accused of supporting Islamist militants targeting neighbour and arch-foe India as well as sheltering the Afghan Taliban and other militants. Pakistan's government and military deny any links to militants.

According to an article by The Nation, the position of the Director General ISI is key, as theoretically he must report to the prime minister, but in reality is to report to the army chief. Thus the ISI has often been accused of undermining the civilian government. And the ISI has often also faced criticism for its alleged meddling in the politics of Pakistan and its control over several secret and militant groups. Mukhtar was in the run to be chief of the ISI in 2014 when Gen Rizwan Akhtar was given the spot. As the ISI DG he has to handle the deteriorating relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Pakistan and India.

File photo of Naveed Mukhtar. Facebook

File photo of Naveed Mukhtar. Facebook

In an earlier article in October, The Nation had reported on the likelihood of these developments even as they were denied by the then chief army spokesperson Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa. The position of the ISI DG is typically held for three-years but Akhtar took office in November 2014, thus he won't be finishing his whole tenure, which has led to the speculation by certain Indian media agencies that the surgical strikes undertaken by the Indian Army might have possibly caused these turn of events.

Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar is an intelligence veteran — this first big reshuffle is said to tighten Bajwa's hold on the military that plays a key role in the country's affairs. A graduate of the Command and Staff College, Quetta, National Defence University, Islamabad, and War Course USA, Mukhtar has also commanded a Mechanised Division. There was speculation sometime back that Prime Minister Sharif wanted to appoint Mukhtar as ISI chief but then army chief Raheel Sharif resisted the move.

It is believed that the new ISI chief enjoys the confidence of both the civilian and military leadership and it would go a long way in healing differences between them, observers said. According to a Dawn report, Mukhtar served in the Armoured Corps regiment in 1983 and till 7 December, served as corps commander of Karachi. He was also promoted to the rank of lieutenant general and posted to Corps V in 2014. Mukhtar has also headed the counter-terrorism wing of the ISI in Islamabad.

Challenges

A report in The Nation mentions that Mukhtar's challenges include the decaying relations with Afghanistan, with the country accusing that Pakistan's spy agency of supporting Taliban, while ISI denies the accusations. It also remains to be seen what policies Mukhtar will be taking towards India. Especially after the surgical strikes across Line of Control and the Kashmir issue with both the countries having kicked out several diplomats.

With inputs from agencies


Published Date: Dec 12, 2016 12:38 pm | Updated Date: Dec 13, 2016 11:35 am

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