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General Asim Munir's appointment as new ISI chief
Lieutenant General Asim Munir has been appointed (October 10, 2018) as the new Director General of the Pakistan army's infamous spy agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).

Lt Gen Asim Munir will succeed Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar after latter's retirement on October 25, 2018, after serving the Pakistan army for more than 35 years.

Lt Gen Munir is 23rd chief of ISI and belongs to Frontier Force, an infantry arm of the Pakistan army. The newly appointed ISI Chief Lt Gen Asim was Director General of Pakistan army's Military Intelligence (MI) as a Major General before he was promoted as a Lt Gen on September 28, 2018 along with five other Major Generals.  In his army career, Lt Gen Munir also served as commander of the Force Command Northern Areas. In March 2018, he was conferred upon 'Hilal-i-Imtiaz (Military)' award, which is the second highest civilian award given to both civilians and military officers of Pakistan's armed forces.

Significantly, appointment of Lt Gen Munir as chief of ISI was first major appointment made by Prime Minister Imran Khan in a security establishment of the country. Within weeks of taking over as Prime Minister, Imran Khan had visited (September 12, 2018) headquarters of the ISI in Islamabad, where he had received an eight hours long comprehensive briefing on "various strategic, intelligence and national security matters".

Imran Khan, during ISI headquarters' visit, had described the ISI as Pakistan's first line of defence and declared the ISI as the best intelligence agency of the world. He had also lauded the contributions of ISI for national security, especially in the field of counter-terrorism. Imran Khan had also declared that the government and people of Pakistan firmly stood behind country's armed forces and intelligence agencies and greatly acknowledged their "unprecedented achievements".

Post of ISI's head is considered to be most powerful in Pakistan army after the rank of army chief and traditionally it goes to a three star army general who has a considerable experience in the field of intelligence. Commenting on appointment of Lt Gen Munir's as ISI chief, a Pakistani senior defence analyst Lt General (retd) Amjad Shoaib, asserted that unlike the past this time the appointment of new ISI chief was made without any controversy because of the harmony between the civil and military leadership.

ISI came into being on January 1, 1948 and was made operationally responsible for gathering, processing, and analyzing national security information from around the world.  Since ISI primarily staff consists of serving military officers drawn on secondment from the three service branches of the Pakistan Armed Forces i.e the Army, Air Force, and Navy, it was named as "Inter-Services Intelligence.

Major General Syed Shahid Hamid was the first chief of ISI (1948–1950), who was a close associate of the then President Ayub Khan.  He had played a major role in bringing Field Marshal Ayub Khan to power in the 1958 coup that overthrew the government of President Major-General Iskander Mirza. As a Lieutenant-Colonel of Pakistan army, Syed Shahid Hamid had set up the Inter-Services Intelligence from a small office in Karachi in January 1948. He had also led the military operations in Kashmir in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947and in 1951. At the age of 41, Syed Shahid Hamid became the youngest Major General of the Pakistan army and was retired from the Army in 1964. However, in 1978, President Zia ul-Haq made as a federal cabinet minister and he served for three years.

Meanwhile, since 1971, the ISI is being headed by an army officer of the rank of Lieutenant General. ISI has three wings, namely Internal Wing, which is responsible for internal intelligence such as counter-intelligence, counter-espionage, and counter-terrorism; then External Wing which is responsible for external intelligence, external counter-intelligence, and espionage and finally Foreign Relations Wing which is mainly responsible for diplomatic intelligence and foreign relations intelligence. All these three wings are headed by Deputy Director-Generals, who are serving two-star military officers.

Under the ISI Chief, there is also one Covert Action Division (CAD), which is considered to be the most secretive special operations force of Pakistan under ISI Chief. It is responsible for paramilitary and covert operations as well as special activities. CAD is also tasked to collect intelligence in hostile environments and act as a special warfare unit of ISI. In addition, ISI has also several ' Divisions',  including Joint Intelligence North, which is responsible for operations  Jammu and Kashmir region   and Northern Areas.  Likewise, there is a Special Services Directorate (SSD) under the ISI which is responsible for monitoring the activities of the terrorist group activities, operating against the state of Pakistan.

ISI is considered to be one of top ten Intelligence agencies of the world. it is a very strong and powerful organization , mostly challenging the  democratic polity of Pakistan. It is often criticized being "the state within the state". Even Pakistan's senior politicians acknowledged the ISI's being most powerful organization of the country. Yousaf Raza Gilani, a former Prime Minister of Pakistan had asserted that DG ISI was most powerful person in the nuclear-armed South Asian nation after the military chief. Any effort made to control the ISI by a Pakistani civilian government is vehemently countered by the agency and politician concerned is shown the way. The classic case in this respect is twice   removal of democratically elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from office in July 1993 and July 2017 respectively.   Ironically,  at the same time country's top politicians political career  like  Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan was nurtured by  non-other than the ISI.

Although the main job of ISI is to deal with external security threats, but it is also deeply involved in domestic politics since it came into being in January 1948. While the democratically elected government governs the country, it is ISI which runs the country, especially Pakistan's foreign policy on Afghanistan and India, particularly the Kashmir affairs and all issues pertaining to Pakistan's security.  Some of s security experts feel that of late, ISI's powers have increased manifold and it is stronger than the civilian government.

Despite earning criticism from various internal and external quarters, ISI's performance has also been appreciated internationally specially during and after the Afghan war (1979–1989). A Pakistani English daily "The Express Tribune" had quoted (November 30, 2015) AS Dulat, the former chief of Indian's premier external intelligence Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) describing ISI as world's most powerful intelligence as according to him it was very anonymous. However, ISI is also criticized for some of his leading failures, including killing of Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011 inside Pakistani territory by a US special warfare group.

Meanwhile, since Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is himself  pro- ISI and he  has high opinion about the agency's professional proficiency, India is likely to face more ISI sponsored and backed terrorist activities in Kashmir in days to come. Imran Khan, unlike his predecessor Nawaz Sharif might not attempt to control    the internal and external activities of ISI under newly appointed chief Lt Gen Munir, which may result into more terrorist attacks in and around Kashmir in the future.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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