Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar, considered a close confidante of army chief Gen Raheel Sharif, was on Monday appointed as new head of Pakistan’s powerful spy agency ISI.
Lt Gen Akhtar was promoted as three star general and appointed Director General Inter-Services Intelligence as part of major reshuffle in the military, a development that would help Gen Sharif in consolidating his powers amid political instability in the country.
“Maj Gens Rizwan Akhtar, Hilal Hussain, Ghayur Mahmood, Nazir Butt, Navid Mukhtar, Hidayat Ur Rehman” were promoted to next ranks, Director General Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major Asim Bajwa wrote on Twitter. He also said Akhtar was appointed as to DGISI, Hidayat to Peshawar Corps commander, Mukhtar Karachi Corps Commander, Hussain Mangla Corps Commander, Mahmood Gujranwala Coprs Commander, Butt as chief of communication and Information Technology at GHQ.
Lt Gen Akhtar will take over from October 1 when the current ISI chief Lt-Gen Zaheerul Islam retirs along with four other lieutenant generals. Those retiring are 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. Technically and legally the ISI chief is appointed by the prime minister on the advice of the army chief but the former can seldom have his will. Usually the army chief sends a name to the prime minister as formality who had to approve it.
Earlier, it was reported that Maj Gen Naveed Mukhtar was also in the run for the top spy job.
Dawn reported that Akhtar is a graduate of the Command and Staff College in Quetta, National Defense University and the Army War College, USA.
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, Maj Gen 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.
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.
“He is a professional soldier who has experience of both Fata and internal security in Karachi,” an army official said.