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ISI Directors

Naveed Mukhtar

Pakistan appointed Naveed Mukhtar as the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief 12 December 2016. Pakistanís new army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa abruptly removed the head of the countryís spy agency ISI, and made several other significant changes in the armyís top brass, as part of a major reshuffle. It was the second big appointment by PM Sharif in the past two weeks. Last month, the premier appointed General Qamar Bajwa as the country's new army chief. Bajwa succeeded General Raheel Sharif, under whose tenure experts say the military dominated almost all spheres of government.

Lieutenant General Naveed Mukhtar, who succeeded General Rizwan Akhtar as the military's Inter-Services Intelligence director general, was last based in the southern city of Karachi as the corps commander. He also served as the head of the ISI's counter-terrorism wing. Mukhtar also commanded Pakistani troops in the restive South Waziristan region near the Afghan border.

The new ISI chief was appointed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the advice of the army chief General Qamar Bajwa. However, civilian premiers have very little say in matters related to security, defense and foreign policy. Hence, the announcement of Akhtar's promotion didn't come from the ministry of defense or the prime minister secretariat but through the military's Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) department.

"I don't think the new ISI chief will be any different from his predecessor. Naveed Mukhtar will carry the orders of his chief, General Qamar Bajwa. But the difference in the personalities of the outgoing ISI head and the incoming chief might make a slight difference," stated Zaman Khan.

Rizwan Akhtar

Pakistan appointed a new chief for the country's powerful intelligence agency 22 September 2014. An army statement said Rizwan Akhtar has been promoted to the rank of lieutenant general and will head Inter-Services Intelligence, effective 01 October 2014. Akhtar had extensive experience with counterinsurgency and counterterrorism.

Pakistani defense analyst and former Pakistan Army lieutenant general Talat Masood says Akhtar is the right man for the job. "I think he has got the relevant experience which is needed for this job. In the sense that he has been in Wanna [Pakistanís area bordering the Afghan border] and at the moment you can imagine that the operation [against Pakistani Taliban] in the North Wazirstan and the turbulent situation on the Afghanistan border," he told VOA's Deewa Service.

Masood said Pakistan needs to review ISI policy towards Afghanistan. "I am hoping that there would be a revision and transition from this policy because the past policy has been very harmful for the long term interest of Pakistan. It has given rise to a lot of misgivings and misunderstandings between Afghanistan and Pakistan. And also given rise to a lot of militant groups in Pakistan."

Akhtar, who previously headed a Pakistani paramilitary force in the southern city of Karachi, replaced Lieutenant General Zaheer ul Islam, who took command in March 2012. Gen. Islam had served the organisation, thus bringing with him rich experience in the fields of internal security and intelligence. Succeeding Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, who retired on March 18, he hails from Kahuta (Murree) where he served as GOC during the Musharraf era. Belonging to 13-Punjab (Infantry), Lt Gen Zaheer-ul Islam was promoted to the present rank in 2011 and shifted to Karachi as Commander 5-Corps, after he served more than 3 years as DG(C) in the ISI. He had been dealing with internal security. He is known in military circles as an honest, hardworking and upright person.

In Lt Gen Zaheerís appointment as DG ISI, Army chief General Kayani got his trusted person to head the elite intelligence organisation, though Lt Gen Pasha too enjoyed his full confidence and often used to talk to the Americans on behalf of the army chief, and served as a kind of interlocutor during a period of tense military-to-military relations between Pakistan and the United States.

Outgoing ISI head Rizwan Akhtar was transferred to the National Defense University in Islamabad. He was a close aide to Pakistan's former army chief, Raheel Sharif. Prior to his ISI job, Akhtar had headed the paramilitary Rangers force in the southern province of Sindh, where he supervised a major operation against criminal gangs and Taliban militants. Human rights activists, however, accused Akhtar's forces of being involved in extra-judicial killings and torture during the operation.

According to Nasir Tufail, a journalist in Karachi, Akhtar's human rights record was dismal. "He was a controversial figure during his tenure as the director of paramilitary forces in Karachi. Many political activists were allegedly kidnapped by government agencies. Qaim Ali Shah, the former chief minister of the southern Sindh province, often complained that Akhtar didn't follow his government's orders," Tufail told DW in December 2016 . But Nasim Zehra, an Islamabad-based security analyst, believes Akhtar did a commendable job as the spy chief.

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Page last modified: 15-12-2016 19:25:52 ZULU