Lieutenant General Rizwan Akhtar, considered a close ally of Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif, has been promoted to the post of Director General Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) on Monday among other promotions within the army ranks.
The military officers retiring in October include ISI chief Lt-Gen Zaheerul Islam, Mangla corps commander Lt-Gen Tariq Khan, Gujranwala corps commander Lt-Gen Saleem Nawaz, Peshawar corps commander Lt-Gen Khalid Rabbani and Karachi corps commander Lt-Gen Sajjad Ghani.
All five positions are of paramount importance in the military but the chief of the ISI is regarded as the army’s most important official after the army chief himself. The ISI chief is appointed by the prime minister, traditionally on the advice of the army chief. General Rizwan and Maj Gen Naveed Mukhtar were close contenders due to their experience of intelligence. Considered a close aid of the COAS, General Rizwan Akhtar is a graduate of the Command and Staff College in Quetta, National Defense University and the Army War College, USA, a military official told Dawn. Rizwan was commissioned in the Pakistan Army in Frontier Force Regiment in September 1982.
He is from the Frontier Force Regiment and commanded the infantry brigade and infantry division in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). Previously as Sindh DG Rangers, Major General Rizwan Akhtar had been assigned with the task to lead the Karachi operation. But the military had replaced him as DG Rangers Sindh with another senior military officer. The decision by the military headquarters had come at a time when a joint operation by police and Rangers against terrorists and criminal elements in Karachi had been in its full swing. Akhtar is also considered to have extensive experience of counterinsurgency from a previous posting in the border region of South Waziristan.
“He has served in a place like Karachi while remaining neutral and apolitical and has extensive experience of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism. He was the obvious choice,” said a serving military official who had served with Akhtar. “He is a professional soldier who has experience of both Fata and internal security in Karachi,” an army official told Dawn.
“For Nawaz Sharif, the bottom line is that he doesn’t want another Zaheer,” said a defence ministry official, summing up what the prime minister was looking for in his new spy chief. “Somehow, the PM has never considered Zaheer his man. And that’s been a source of great anxiety for him. So he wanted someone who doesn’t have political leanings.” He will take over as head of the ISI on October 8. -dawn