by Dr Amjad Ayub Mirza

Two events seem to be playing an instrumental role in the inner fighting among senior generals of the Pakistan Army. One is the meddling by ISI chief Lt General Faiz Hameed in the affairs of Kabul in bringing the Taliban into power and the other is regarding the selection of the next Chief of Army Staff (COAS), due in November 2022.

Let’s begin with the tussle between COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa and the chief of Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lt General Faiz Hameed. On September 4, the DG ISI flew to Kabul allegedly without following the proper disciplinary protocol of informing his COAS. He has now returned to Pakistan after facilitating the installation of a Taliban (read Haqqani group) government in Kabul.

The Adjutant General (AG), Lt General Muhammad Amir, had issued a letter to the DG ISI and asked him to appear before the AG to explain his violation of military disciple. When Lt General Faiz Hameed arrived to attend the hearing at the GHQ (September 10), he was thoroughly humiliated. He was marched into the AG’s office, which means he was cautioned at the door and the ISI flag was stripped of his motor vehicle before it was allowed to enter the GHQ premises.

Faiz Hameed has reportedly accepted the charges and asked for pardon, which the COAS has now granted. Hence, the incident is now being hushed away. However, that does not mean that everything is back to normal.

On September 7, the Taliban announced a list of new cabinet members most of whom, by the way, have been on the UN-designated terrorist list with millions of dollars of bounty for any information that would lead to their arrests. Most of them are wanted by the US for drug trafficking, rape, murder, extortion and kidnapping for ransom.

This has angered the Doha office, which had been in charge of negotiations between the Taliban and the Americans. The Doha office is run by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, who is said to be genuinely upset by the inclusion of (Pro-Pakistan/ISI) Haqqani group who now hold nearly half the ministerial positions in the government. This could very easily lead to a bloody conflict among the Taliban themselves.

On Tuesday, the ISPR (Inter Services Public Relations Pakistan) announced a big and very significant reshuffle in the top brass of the Pakistan Army. Lt General Sahir Shamshad Mirza is to become the Commander of 10 Corps in Rawalpindi, Lt General Muhammed Chiragh Haider is set to become the Commander of Multan Corps and Lt General Muhammed Waseem Ashraf is named the next DG Joint Staff Headquarters.

But the most significant appointment is that of Lt General Azhar Abbas, a Shia officer, to the post of Chief of General Staff (CGS). This is significant because COAS General Bajwa is considering to have a Shia as the next COAS so that it can guarantee an uncompromising fight against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

The appointment of Lt General Azhar Abbas as the CGS has raised alarm among other high-ranking generals, precipitating into a power struggle that could further widen the fissures in the military hierarchy. DG ISI Lt general Faiz Hameed and Rawalpindi Corps Commander Lt General Sahir Shamshad themselves happen to be eyeing the post of COAS. This could lead to factional intrigues among the generals that could weaken the unity of purpose at the GHQ. However, in order to qualify for the post of COAS, Lt General has to become a Corps Commander first. That is the criteria. So far, it is most unlikely that Lt Gen Hameed will be given a corps to command, but you never know.

In the coming days and weeks as the Taliban fight the Panjshir forces in Afghanistan, the struggle to out-manoeuvre General Bajwa’s attempt to install Lt Gen Azhar Abbas as the next COAS could prove fatal for the fighting morale of the lower-ranking officers.

Pakistan Army has got its fingers in too many pies. Fighting the Panjshir forces in Afghanistan, infiltration attempts in Kashmir, crushing the insurgency in Baluchistan, tackling the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and confronting a rebellious mood in Sindh and subsequent insurgency launched by the Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army (SRA) in Sindh are all cause for grave concern for the Pakistani military establishment.

As the power struggle among senior generals aggravates, fissures among the rank and file of the Pakistan Army could widen and transform into an existential crisis that might be too big a challenge for it to overcome.

Dr Amjad Ayub Mirza is an author and a human rights activist from Mirpur in PoK