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Will probe against former Pak ISI chief Faiz Hameed fizzle out despite rifts in the military?

Controversial former Pak ISI chief is facing a corruption probe (Photo: Twitter)

Talking to a private media channel in connection with an International Women’s Day program ( Lahore, March 08), Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) Vice President, Maryam Nawaz called for the court-martial of former Director General, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lt Gen Faiz Hameed for his alleged involvement in extra-constitutional actions to destabilize her father, Nawaz Sharif’s government in 2017-2018. She was referring to the latter’s visit to the house of former Islamabad High Court Judge, Shaukat Siddiqui and the pressure put on the latter to ensure that both she and her father be sentenced. Maryam Nawaz also blamed former Chief Justice, Saqib Nisar in this regard.

When questioned about this allegation, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah clarified at a Press Conference (Islamabad, March 09) that court martials were a matter for the Army to decide but an enquiry was underway in regard to Lt. Gen (rtd) Faiz Hameed on which disclosures, if any, would be shared at a later stage.

While Maryam Nawaz’s attack on Lt. Gen (rtd) Faiz may have been intended to buttress her own political narrative against Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek- e- Insaf (PTI), in the context of the ensuing Punjab Assembly elections, the two remarks taken together were relevant enough to elicit rejoinders from both Faiz Hameed and Saqib Nisar.

Acknowledging possibly that the cat had been set among the pigeons, Lt Gen (rtd) Faiz Hameed informed senior pro-establishment journalist Kamran Khan (Dunya News) that in 2017-18, he was only a `junior’ Major General, who could not have destabilized the Nawaz government on his own. He hinted that he was only carrying out orders of his superiors, and was acting to implement the task given to him. Between the lines, Faiz was clearly implicating the Army Chief, Gen Bajwa as well as others in the hierarchy such as the collegiate leadership group of Corps Commanders.

In bringing Kamran Khan into the loop regarding the allegations against him, Faiz had only taken a leaf out of the past, wherein Lt.Gen (rtd) Asad Durrani, another former DG,ISI had, while deposing in the Asghar Khan case (2012), pointed to orders from his Chief, Gen Aslam Beg in distributing the `Mehrangate funds,’ to destabilize the government of Benazir Bhutto in 1990.

Another veteran columnist of the News/ Jang group, Ansar Abbasi revealed in his television show (March 10) that recently some anonymous petitioners had written to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB)’s Rawalpindi Division Chief about Lt Gen Faiz Hameed’s disproportionate wealth and landed property assets in Chakwal, attaching relevant extracts from his Income Tax returns. This petition was not immediately acted upon though it was flagged to the attention of Aftab Sultan, NAB Chief.

On Feb 16, news surfaced in Pakistani media that Najaf Hameed, Faiz’s brother who was Naib Tehsildar in Chakwal and belongs to an affluent family there, had been suspended by the Rawalpindi Division Commissioner, for alleged `misconduct’, along with some other patwaris (revenue functionaries).

Ansar Abbasi has now cited sources to suggest that the complaint petition against Faiz Hameed has been referred back to the NAB for further enquiries. The Interior Minister may have been referring to this development in his interview. Ansar Abbasi pointed out that Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif too was aware of these allegations against Faiz.

It may be recalled that Aftab Sultan subsequently put in his papers, for possibly different reasons and NAB is now under charge of a retired Lieutenant General, Nazir Ahmed Butt, who could have been appointed to the post on Munir’s advice.

It is common knowledge among watchers of the Pakistan Army that there is not much love lost between Army Chief, Gen Syed Asim Munir and Lt. Gen (rtd) Faiz Hameed. Not only was the latter from a regular (76 th) Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) Kakul course, while Asim Munir came in from the 17th Officers Training School, Mangla course, Faiz Hameed may have felt reasonably assured till  October 2021, that he was on the high road to become the next Army Chief with Imran Khan’s unstinted backing and possibly also, support from Gen Bajwa for all his shenanigans,. While Deputy DG, ISI, in charge of counter intelligence, Faiz ran turf battles with Munir, who was DG Military Intelligence then, over operations in Karachi and Balochistan, in which they did not see eye- to- eye. Maj Gen Faisal Naseer, who has now succeeded Faiz in the powerful Counter Intelligence slot in ISI, came into crosshairs of this rivalry between Faiz and Munir at that time.

Nevertheless, it is unlikely that much will come of this enquiry against Faiz Hameed in the NAB. The Army remains far too powerful in Pakistan for individual rivalries of this nature to be allowed to damage the institution. While Asim Munir’s dislike of Imran was definitely a factor in the Sharifs supporting his selection as Chief, he would be very aware of divisions among retired Army Generals as well as within serving Other Ranks and middle level officers which he inherited, after Bajwa’s retirement.

Munir will have to tread warily while determining the extent of Army interference in civilian politics, and in dealing with the issue of Imran Khan’s persisting popularity, notwithstanding the latter’s recent tirade of foul language allegations, calling some Generals traitors, which have not been forgotten. Other remedies may be found to keep Imran bogged down in legal wrangles, for implementing which civilian pegs may be employed.

In the interim, Faiz Hameed’s misdemeanors may get brushed under the carpet.

Also Read: Pakistan’s new Army Chief Asim Munir faces an uphill task

(Rana Banerji was Special Secretary (Retd.) in the Cabinet Secretariat. Views expressed are personal and exclusive to India Narrative)