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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Explained: Who is Lt General Faiz Hamid, the new ISI chief

Lt Gen Hamid replaces Lt Gen Asim Muneer, who was appointed to head the ISI only eight months ago and must have had among the shortest stints in that office.

Written by Nirupama Subramanian
Updated: June 18, 2019 9:12:57 am
 Lt General Faiz Hami, the new ISI chief Lt Gen Hamid replaces Lt Gen Asim Muneer, who was appointed to head the ISI only eight months ago. (File)

In a reshuffle in the Pakistan Army on Sunday night, Lt General Faiz Hamid was appointed as the new director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence. He is appointed by the Prime Minister in consultation with the Army chief and is answerable only to the Army chief. He is the de facto number 2 in the Pakistan Army, and arguably in the country after the Army chief.

Lt Gen Hamid replaces Lt Gen Asim Muneer, who was appointed to head the ISI only eight months ago and must have had among the shortest stints in that office.

Faiz Hamid was promoted to three stars from the rank of Major-General along with four others in April 2019. His appointment, announced by ISPR on Sunday night with a host of others in the Army, comes five months before General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s three-year term ends in November 2019. Like Bajwa, Hamid is also from the Baloch Regiment. He will be among a small group of generals favourably placed for the Army’s top job in 2022.

Immediately prior to his appointment to the top post, Faiz Hamid headed the internal security wing of the ISI, and most famously brokered a deal that ended a siege on the Pakistan capital Islamabad by protestors of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik, in November 2017. He was also accused of engineering defections from the PML(N) ahead of the 2018 elections, weaning away the “electibles” from the party to join Imran Khan’s PTI.

The Labbaik, an extremist Barelvi group, was protesting a change in the oath of office in the Elections Act that it said diluted Pakistan’s anti-Ahmadiyya laws. The then PML(N) government headed by Prime Minister Shahid Abbasi had to finally cave into its demands, including the Law Minister Zahid Hamid’s resignation.

The document of agreement, negotiated by the army, bears Lt General Hamid’s signature as a guarantor of the agreement. The document ended with praise for the Army, and gratitude to General Bajwa for “special efforts” and “for saving the nation from a big catastrophe”. As the crowds dispersed, a major-general was seen distributing white envelopes with Pak Rs 1,000 each to the protestors.

As the head of the ISI, which is also known as a ‘state within a state’, Hamid will practically run the country and crucial aspects of its regional policy, including relations with India, and will be in charge of safeguarding Pakistan’s interests in the ongoing US-Taliban peace talks.

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Hamid was also accused by the Pakistan Mulsim League (Nawaz) of weaning away “electibles” from his party to join Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. At the time, D-G ISPR Lt Gen Asif Ghafoor came out strongly in his defence, stating that the then “Maj Gen Hamid has played an important role in combating terrorism and his detractors do not understand the scope of his post”.

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Hamid’s appointment to the powerful post also comes at a time when Pakistan’s north-west is in turmoil with protests by the dissenting Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, declared by the Army as “terrorists” and “anti-national” and alleged to be in the pay of Indian intelligence agencies.

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