It appears that the tremendous success of Indian Army’s surgical strikes has severely dented Pakistan’s military morale and shaken the entire establishment. Why? Because according to Pakistani daily The Nation, the chief of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lieutenant General Rizwan Akhtar will be replaced in the next few weeks.
This comes as a surprise for the tenure of an ISI chief, the de facto most powerful man after the Army chief in Pakistan, normally lasts three years.
The tenure ends before that only if the ISI chief retires or the Army chief replaces him. Quoting a security official, The Nation reported that the change in command is already underway. The report, however, comments that the decision to replace Akhtar is “intriguing” but gives no explanation as to why. Lieutenant General Akhtar succeeded Lt Gen Zaheer-ul-Islam as the chief of Pakistan’s powerful spy agency in November 2014.
Pakistani ISI chief Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar. The Nation
An official told the daily that the change depends on General Raheel Sharif’s decision whether or not to go for an extension. Sharif has said that he will retire at the end of his term in November.
But military spokesman Lt Gen Asim Bajwa denied that the intelligence chief was being replaced. “No such thing,” Lt Gen Bajwa said when asked about it.
The ISI is Pakistan’s powerful spy agency often accused by India and Afghanistan of backing terrorists against the two countries. The decision to replace the ISI chief comes within days of Indian Army’s surgical strikes across the LoC, in which at least seven terror camps were taken out. India’s neighbours and supporters around the world praised the strikes saying that New Delhi had the right to do so.
Nawaz Sharif with Bilawal Bhutto Zardari at an all-party meeting after India’s surgical strike. AP
The strikes left many in Pakistan’s top echelons red-faced. Pakistan tried but could not give any strong evidence that the strike did not happen. A couple of days ago, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reportedly told the military bosses and ISI that they should not “interfere” with action of law enforcement agencies against banned terrorist groups. It was reported that Lt Gen Akhtar will accompany National Security Adviser Nasser Janjua to all provinces of Pakistan to spread the message.