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.