ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Army on Sunday announced the appointments of Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar as the new ISI chief and Lt Gen Bilal Akbar as Chief of General Staff (CGS), completing the long drawn reshuffle of the top brass caused by the military’s change of command.
Both Gen Mukhtar and Gen Akbar were last posted in Karachi, where the former was commanding the corps, while the latter was leading the Rangers in Sindh.
The position of the ISI’s director general fell vacant after Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar was transferred to National Defence University Islamabad as its president in place of incumbent Lt Gen Nazir Butt.
Prior to his stint in Karachi, Gen Mukhtar served in ISI as head of its counter-terrorism wing. He has commanded a brigade in South Waziristan and also served in operations directorate of the army.
Army completes reshuffle of top brass
Even as the ISI chief’s appointment was announced by the Inter-Services Public Relations, it is the prime minister who picks the spymaster.
Lt Gen Bilal Akbar, who was on Friday promoted as a three star general, was given the crucial assignment of the CGS. The position fell vacant after Gen Zubair Hayat was last month elevated to the post of Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC).
Gen Akbar will be the 33rd CGS — one of the most prestigious positions in the army. Ten of his predecessors went on to become either army chiefs or CJCSC.
The CGS is assigned the operational and intelligence matters at the General Headquarters with directorates of Military Operations and Military Intelligence falling under his purview.
The new CGS is from Artillery. He commanded a division in Lahore and a brigade in Swat. But, it was his stint with Rangers in Sindh that brought him into the limelight. One thing obvious from Gen Akbar’s appointment as the CGS is that a greater focus would remain on internal security.
Much like in case of Gen Akbar and the appointment of Lt Gen Nadeem Raza as corps commander Rawalpindi, both of whom had been freshly promoted from ranks of major general to lieutenant general, several other important postings went to newly promoted officers.
A similar pattern was also visible in recent promotions wherein a number of officers serving at important positions, including vice chief of general staff and general officers commanding of some divisions, were superseded.
Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa is seen as building his own team.
One such appointment was that of Lt Gen Sher Afgun, who was posted as corps commander Bahawalpur. The position had fallen vacant due to retirement of Lt Gen Javed Iqbal Ramday, who was superseded during the appointment of the chief of army staff.
Lt Gen Afgun is from the Azad Kashmir Regiment of Infantry. His last appointment was Inspector General Frontier Corps in Balochistan, where he was posted following the disclosure of a corruption scandal in FC. He commanded a division on the Line of Control, when Gen Bajwa was commander 10 Corps. Gen Afgun has further led a brigade in North Waziristan and also remained at Military Operations Directorate as a director.
In another posting, Lt Gen Nazir Butt, president NDU, has been moved to Peshawar corps as its new commander. He replaces Gen Hidayatur Rehman, who has been appointed as Inspector General Training and Evaluation — a position held by Gen Bajwa before he became the army chief. Although IGT&E’s position is not considered among the hottest jobs at GHQ, incidentally Gen Hidayat’s both immediate predecessors became army chiefs.
Gen Hidayat, the first officer from Northern Areas to become a three star general, remained as corps commander Peshawar for almost two years. During his tenure, he oversaw operations in North Waziristan and Khyber tribal regions.
ISPR Director General Lt Gen Asim Bajwa was assigned the position of Inspector General Arms at GHQ. Other than Gen Ishfaq Nadeem, Gen Asim Bajwa was credited as the man behind the recently retired Gen Raheel Sharif’s successes as he gave a new dimension to the ISPR’s role as the military’s public relations wing.
There was greater focus on social media during his tenure. Gen Asim Bajwa also happens to be one of the longest serving ISPR chiefs. He was posted in the ISPR as a major general in June 2012 and continued working against the two star position even after his promotion to the rank of lieutenant general in September 2015.
Lt Gen Humayun Aziz, another newly promoted officer, has been made Inspector General Communication and Information Technology. Gen Aziz is a gunner. He has commanded a division in Khyber Agency and his last posting was DG Welfare and Rehabilitation at Adjutant General Branch in GHQ.
Lt Gen Qazi Ikram has been appointed Chief of Logistic Staff. Gen Ikram is from artillery and his last assignment was Director General Personnel Services at GHQ.
Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal, an officer from Engineers Corps, would continue in his position as director general Frontier Works Organisation.
Lt Gen Naeem Ashraf has, meanwhile, been appointed as chairman Heavy Industries Taxila. Gen Ashraf is from the armoured corps. He was earlier at the National Defence University as its chief instructor. Gen Ashraf has commanded a mechanised division in Malir; and 3 Independent Armoured Brigade Group and 24 Infantry Brigade in Operation Al Mizan in South Waziristan.
Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2016