ISI Chief’s Meddling In Kabul Angers COAS Gen Bajwa, Tussle On
Shia Lt Gen Appointed Chief of General Staff, Heartburn Among Other Generals, Power Struggle Intensifies
By Dr Amjad Ayub Mirza
Two events seem to be playing an instrumental role in the inner fighting among senior generals of the Pakistan army. One is the meddling by the ISI chief Lt General Faiz Hameed in the affairs of Kabul in bringing the Taliban into power. The other is the issue regarding the selection of the next Chief of Army Staff (COAS) due in November 2022.
Let’s begin with the tussle between the COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa and the chief of Pakistan’s spy agency the Inter-Services-Intelligence (ISI) Lt General Faiz Hameed. On September 4, the DG ISI flew to Kabul allegedly without following the proper disciplinary protocol of informing his COAS. He has now returned to Pakistan after facilitating the installation of a Taliban (read Haqqani group) government in Kabul.
The Adjutant General (AG), Lt General Muhammed Aamer, had issued a letter to the DG ISI and asked him to appear before the AG to explain his violation of military disciple. When Lt General Faiz Hameed arrived to attend the hearing at the GHQ (Sep 10), he was thoroughly humiliated. He was marched into the AG office which means he was cautioned at the door and the ISI flag was stripped of his motor vehicle before it was allowed to enter the GHQ premises.
Faiz Hameed has reportedly accepted the charges and asked for pardon which the COAS has now granted. Hence, the incident is now being hushed away. However, that does not mean that everything is back to normal.On September 7, the Taliban announced a list of new cabinet members. Most of them have been on the UN designated terrorist list with millions of dollars of bounty for any information that would lead to their arrests. Most of them are wanted by the USA for drug trafficking, rape, murder, extortion and kidnapping for ransom.
This has angered the Doha office which had been in charge of negotiations between Taliban and the Americans. The Doha office is run by Chief Negotiator Sher Muhammed Abbas Stanikzai, one of the Taliban’s seven most powerful figures. Stanikzai is said to be genuinely upset by the inclusion of (Pro-Pakistan/ISI) Haqqani group who now hold nearly half the government ministerial positions. This could very easily lead to a bloody conflict among the Taliban themselves. Seventeen out of a 33-member cabinet comprises of those who belong to Haqqani group.
Shia Lt Gen Rises To A Top Position In Pak Army, Fissures In Military Hierarchy Can Deepen
On Tuesday the ISPR announced a big and very significant reshuffle in the top brass of the Pakistan army. Lt General Sahir Shamshad Mirza is to become the Commander of 10 corps in Rawalpindi. Lt General Muhammed Chiragh Haider is to become the Commander of Multan Corps. Lt General Muhammed Waseem Ashraf is named the next DG Joint Staff Headquarters.
But the most significant appointment is that of Lt General Azhar Abbas, a Shia officer, to the post of Chief of General Staff (CGS). This is significant because COAS General Bajwa is considering that the next COAS should be a Shia so that it can guarantee an uncompromising fight against the Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan. There is reason why the appointment of Lt General Azhar Abbas has ruffled the top brass of Pakistan Army. The post of Chief of General Staff (CGS) is considered the most influential position in Pakistan Army after that Chief of Army Staff. The CGS is entrusted with operational and intelligence matters at the General Headquarters. The Directorates of Military Operations and Military Intelligence are under his purview.
This is the reason why the appointment of Lt General Azhar Abbas as the CGS has raised alarm among other high ranking generals, precipitating into a power struggle that could further widen the fissures in the military hierarchy.
DG ISI Lt General Faiz Hameed and Rawalpindi Corps Commander Lt General Sahir Shamshad are eyeing the post of Chief Of Army Staff. The rise of Lt General Azhar Abbas can lead to factional intrigues among the generals. Such a development, in turn, can weaken the unity of purpose at the General HQ. However, in order to qualify for the post of COAS, a Lt General has to become a Corps commander first. That is the criteria. So far it is most unlikely that Lt Gen Hameed will be given a corps to command, but you never know.
In the coming days and weeks as the Taliban fight the Punjshir forces in Afghanistan, the struggle to outmaneuver General Bajwa’s attempt to install Lt Gen Azhar Abbas as the next COAS could prove to be fatal for the fighting morale of the lower-ranking officers. Pakistan Army has got its fingers in too many pies. Fighting the Punjshir forces in Afghanistan. Infiltration attempts in Kashmir. Crushing the insurgency in Baluchistan. Tackling the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement in KPK. Confronting a rebellious mood in Sindh. The subsequent insurgency launched by the Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army (SRA) in Sindh. All these are cause for grave concern for the Pakistani military establishment.
As the power struggle among senior generals aggravates, the fissures among the rank and file of Pakistan army could widen. It can transform into an existential crisis that might be too big a challenge for it to overcome.
(Dr. Amjad Ayub Mirza is an author and a human rights activist from Mirpur in Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir. He currently lives in exile in the UK)