Pakistan has removed Lt Gen Asim Munir as Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief and replaced him with Lt Gen Faiz Hameed in a surprise move. Asif Munir had the shortest ever stint of eight months as the intelligence chief of Pakistan military, which controls ISI.
Asim Munir had been handpicked by Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa last year to head the ISI. Munir is an expert on Kashmir and familiar with the Valley terrain.
A report in the Economic Times in post-Pulwama days quoted an expert as saying that Pulwama terror attack of February “bears the stamp of newly appointed ISI chief” Munir, who was made agency’s boss in October 2018.
Before being appointed as ISI chief Munir was the commander of Northern Areas in Pakistan Army and through Pulwama terror attack that killed 40 CRPF jawans, he was said to have proved his mettle to the bosses.
But post-Pulawama attack, Pakistan has been under tremendous international pressure that India has been able to generate forcing the Imran Khan government and Pakistan Army to act against terror groups. Significant developments have happened since Pulwama terror attack showing Pakistan moving against terror groups.
Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar was designated as a global terrorist in May by the United Nations Security Council, a move that China had been blocking for a decade to save its all-weather friend Pakistan embarrassment at the highest international forum.
Pakistan put fresh curbs on Jamat-u-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, who was barred from leading Eid prayers in Lahore’s Qaddafi stadium earlier this month. And, also the Pakistan Army agreed for a “voluntary” cut in defence budget for the first time. It was a move seen in sync with softening of Pakistani establishment’s support to terror infrastructure.
Munir’s sacking, which was not accounted for in the press release by the Pakistan Army, fits the pattern. However, to balance Munir’s removal, to please its domestic constituency, Pakistan has appointed “hardliner” Faiz Hameed.
Faiz Hameed had hit headlines in Pakistan when he helped put an end to a sit-in protest by some religious groups in 2017 over the amendment to election laws. The protesters had blocked roads leading to Islamabad in high-tension situation. Hameed brokered what many called the Faizabad agreement to bring normalcy in Islamabad.
Technically, the appointment of director general of ISI is the prerogative of the prime minister of Pakistan and Imran Khan has been saying that his government is firm to contain all kinds of terrorism emanating from Pakistan. Interestingly, Munir was replaced by Hameed two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Imran Khan had an unofficial exchange at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Kyrgyzstan.