Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry on Thursday said it was convention for the prime minister to meet candidates before appointments were made to key positions such as the ISI chief, adding that efforts to make the process controversial were inappropriate.
"The process for appointing the new DG ISI will be completed soon. The game that a specific section wants to play on this has been defeated. Now it is being said that the prime minister will hold interviews for the new DG ISI.
"A meeting before such appointments is conventional. Making this process controversial is highly inappropriate," he said.
Chaudhry was apparently responding to a report published by The News which quoted a federal minister as saying that the premier wanted to interview officials who were shortlisted for the position of ISI chief.
"The source said that all the processes in this regard are being followed in line with the understanding reached between the prime minister and the army chief. The source hinted that the Karachi corps commander is still the most likely choice for the post of DG ISI," the report said.
"A federal minister on condition of not being named told this correspondent that the prime minister wants to interview all the three officers, recommended in the panel by the army chief," the report added.
PM Imran calls meeting of PTI parliamentary group
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan called a meeting of the ruling party's parliamentary group to discuss the overall political situation in the country and the situation in Afghanistan.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill and Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari were among those who attended the meeting.
Speaking to reporters at the Parliament House in Islamabad after the meeting, Chaudhry insisted that "matters are completely alright" when asked about the ISI chief's appointment.
"The problem is that every hour some person, for getting fame, twists some words and puts it up [on Twitter]. At this time, the process has started. There is no conflict between the army and the government. Everyone is on the same page," he said.
In response to a question about when the government would notify the new ISI chief, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill said, "Do not take this so [urgently]. It is serious business."
He said that the information minister would share the news with the media as soon as the prime minister "makes a decision" and urged the media to refrain from sensationalising national matters.
The interior minister, who was also cornered by reporters after the meeting, said that the prime minister had given a briefing on the situation in neighbouring Afghanistan while the recently formed Rehmatul lil Alameen Authority was also discussed.
Commenting on the DG ISI's appointment, Ahmed said that all things were "settled" and that relations with the army were "excellent". The interior minister, however, declined to comment on who the premier would appoint and said that "there was no talk of interviews".
He said that such issues can arise and the prime minister was thinking on a "political-level". The minister also became visibly irked after being interrupted by one of the reporters.
"Don't ask silly questions, don't ask silly questions," he said as he pointed his finger at the reporter.
'Civil military relations best they have ever been'
Speaking to the media after the meeting, the information minister said that PM Imran had discussed the situation in Afghanistan with PTI parliamentarians.
"Pakistan's stance is that Afghanistan should not be left alone and that humanitarian aid should continue," he said while highlighting the steps Pakistan has taken to facilitate Afghans.
"If the world isolates Afghanistan, then as the premier told us today, terrorist groups will flourish which will harm not only the Afghans, but also Pakistan and the rest of the world."
Commenting on the DG ISI's appointment, Chaudhry said that the premier had once again reiterated that the civil and military leadership were on the same page.
"[PM Imran] said that he had close and cordial relations with Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and whatever the [issue] is, it is decided with dialogue."
He also quoted the prime minister as saying that the relationship between the civil and military leadership was the best it had ever been. He added that the process of appointing the DG ISI is underway.
Delay in notification
Following the reported impasse between the civil and military leadership on the issue, Prime Minister Imran received a summary carrying names of candidates for one of the most powerful slots in the country on Wednesday.
A federal minister, who did not want to be named, told Dawn that the premier had received the summary that carried names for the office of DG ISI.
Last week, the military's media affairs wing, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), had announced that Lt Gen Nadeem Ahmed Anjum had been appointed the new ISI chief whereas Lt Gen Faiz Hameed had been posted as Peshawar corps commander.
Since a notification of the appointment had not been issued by the PM Office for next couple of days, it led to feverish speculation in the federal capital, compelling the government to break its silence on the issue. The information minister had said in a press conference on Tuesday that PM Imran and the army chief had a "long sitting" last night to discuss the matter after which the premier took the cabinet into confidence on the issue.
On Wednesday, Chaudhry tweeted that consultation between the PM and COAS on the appointment of a new DG ISI had been completed and the process for the appointment had begun. "The civil and military leadership has yet again proved that all institutions are united for the country's stability, integrity and development," he wrote.