After the latest reshuffle in the senior ranks of Pakistan Army last week, Lt General Mazhar Jamil has been appointed the director general of Strategic Plans Division (SPD). The head of SPD is a sensitive post as he controls the research, development, production and deployment of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. Its importance can be gauged from the fact that Lt General Jamil is only the third person to hold this post since Pakistan openly went nuclear in 1999.
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The man who stayed from the beginning till 2013 was Lieutenant General Khalid Kidwai. Even though Kidwai retired from the army in 2007, he got an unheard of 12 extensions to remain in charge of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Last month, speaking at a conference in Washington DC, Kidwai had threatened India by highlighting Pakistan’s development of battlefield nuclear weapons. As reported by The Indian Express, Kidwai had argued that Pakistan has developed the 2,750 km range Shaheen-3 missile to prevent India from gaining a second-strike nuclear capability from Andaman and Nicobar islands.
Lt General Jamil, who was serving as the Military Secretary in GHQ, Rawalpindi was promoted to a Lt General in 2013 after superseding four other Major Generals. This was one of the last acts of General Kayani as Pakistan army chief. Most interestingly, Lt General Jamil was the Commandant of Pakistan Military Academy — and the garrison commander of Abbottabad — in 2011 when U.S. Navy SEALs killed al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden in a compound barely 1.3 kilometers from the Academy.
Shashank Joshi, a Senior Research Fellow of the Royal United Services Institute in London says that Lt General Jamil’s “appointment is the message that the Pakistan army has no intention of censuring those associated with the PMA during the bin Laden raid – but that was crystal clear anyway, and certainly so after Jamil’s promotion, over the heads of four others, in 2013.”
“Clearly, Jamil is considered a safe pair of hands by the establishment during what will be an important period for the SPD: dealing with greater international attention on tactical nuclear weapons, concern over possible Pakistan-Saudi proliferation, and decisions to be made about sea-based nuclear weapons,” Joshi avers.
Lt General Jamil replaces Lt Gen Zubair Mahmood Hayat who has been appointed as Pakistan army’s new Chief of General Staff.