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Imran Khan and Pak army chief Bajwa in face-off over ISI chief’s appointment

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It has been six days since Pakistani Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa appointed Lt General Nadeem Ahmed Anjum , as the director General (DG) of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) replacing Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, but Prime Minister Imran Khan has still not signed the appointment letter (Pic. Courtesy Twitter/@pajhwok)

Is this a lull before the big storm in Pakistan? It has been six days since Pakistani Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa appointed Lt General Nadeem Ahmed Anjum , as the director General (DG) of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) replacing Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, but Prime Minister Imran Khan has still not signed  the appointment letter.

When Pakistani reporters tried to raise the question with the ministers of Imran Khan’s government, all of them including Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid evaded an answer.

There are reports in the Pakistani media that the top ministers have had many rounds of talks with the military establishment to resolve the standoff between Imran Khan and Bajwa.

According to Saleem Saifi, a senior Pakistani journalist, PM Imran Khan, has shown the rule book to Bajwa which says that the ISI chief is appointed by the Prime Minister but as part of a tradition, he executes this power in consultation with the Pakistan Army chief.

The post of ISI chief is considered one of the most important in the Pakistan Army, which has ruled the country for more than half of its 73 plus years of existence and has hitherto wielded considerable power in matters of security and foreign policy.

Imran Khan is angry that he was not taken on board when Bajwa transferred his favourite Lt Gen Faiz Hameed to head the Peshawar Corp and brought in Lt Gen Anjum to replace him.

But Imran Khan is so keen to keep Lt Gen Faiz Hameed as ISI chief that he first proposed making that rank equivalent to that of corps commander and then proposed he take on the role of Corps Commander Peshawar as an additional charge. However, Bajwa did not agree to the proposal because this would have led to resentment among his top military leadership.

Hameed was at the centre of a controversy when former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif accused him of orchestrating  his ouster in 2017 and rigging  the 2018 general elections to "impose the ‘incompetent’ Imran Khan" on the nation as the “puppet” PM of Pakistan.

According to some Pakistani analysts, Bajwa is up to something. He knows that Hameed is close to Imran and being the “manipulator” ISI chief, he can be dangerous. If Bajwa decides to stay on for a year, Hameed will have no chance to become the army chief as he retires in 2023.

But if Imran Khan does not sign the appointment letter of Lt Gen Anjum as ISI chief ? Is history going to repeat itself again ?

Pakistani sources say that Bajwa is hoping to win American trust through his own channels because US President Joe Biden has still not spoken to Imran Khan and that is a royal snub for Islamabad. The military establishment is also weighing whether their “puppet” has served the purpose or not.

Also Read: Will everything be ok for former ISI chief Faiz Hameed? Only Pak army chief Bajwa knows