The choice of Hameed as ISI chief suggests that Rawalpindi will have a say in the reform agenda as much as Khan’s civilian government in Islamabad.
The appointment of Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed as director-general of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), its military-led spy agency, cutting short the tenure of the incumbent Lieutenant General Asim Munir, signals a hardening of stance on part of the Pakistan army. For a country dominated by its armed forces, with the civilian regime rarely daring to take on the men in uniform, the move might complicate the country’s efforts to revive its economy. Its growth this year is expected to slot in at just 3.3%, low even by its own standards, and Islamabad seems desperate for a foreign bailout to cover its hard currency needs. Pakistan’s exports are floundering, domestic inflation is high and its government spends way more than its revenues ought to let it. Neither the International Monetary Fund nor Asian Development Bank are willing to lend the country money unless it demonstrates a will to fix what needs to be fixed.
Is Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan up to the task? The choice of Hameed as ISI chief suggests that Rawalpindi will have a say in the reform agenda as much as Khan’s civilian government in Islamabad. Hameed is considered not just a hardliner, but one who wouldn’t want the army’s role in Pakistani affairs to be rolled back. The country has failed so far to fulfill 25 of the 27 conditions set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global watchdog that checks terror financing, and this failure harms its sovereign credit rating. While the army’s exercise of authority is a given, it’s about time Pakistan’s civilian rulers acquainted the country’s generals with the consequences of an economic blowout. Reforms may need to begin in Rawalpindi.