Pakistan has appointed Lieutenant General Nadeem Anjum as the country’s new spy chief.

He takes over as director-general of Inter-Services Intelligence from Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed, who ran the ISI for more than two years and will next become the army’s Peshawar Corps commander.

The Pakistan army’s media arm announced the appointments Thursday as part of a series of military leadership changes.

Military observers in the country reacted to the appointments, saying that Hameed’s appointment meant he could be a leading candidate for the country’s top military position, chief of the army staff, next year.

Anjum, the new ISI head, held senior leadership posts in two of the country’s biggest counterterrorism operations in recent years. Most recently, he was inspector general of the Frontier Corps during the Rudd ul Fasaad operation focused on eliminating terrorist sleeper cells.

Hameed served in the ISI as a military commander for five years. He worked as director-general of internal security for two years before managing the espionage agency for the rest of his time in the ISI.

He rose to attention in 2017 after the religious party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan mounted a protest in Islamabad over changes to the affidavit that candidates must submit during elections. After 22 days of demonstrations that included violence, Hameed took part in negotiations that resulted in an agreement, which he officially signed as a witness.

Court case

Following that, Hameed’s name reappeared during a supreme court case stemming from the Panama Papers, an international leak of financial documents in 2016 showing how rich people hide their wealth. The published documents included information about former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was later sentenced to prison on corruption charges related to the disclosures.

At one time, Islamabad High Court Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui claimed that Hameed had urged judges to deny bail to Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz. The Pakistan army refuted the allegations made against Hameed; however, Miriam Nawaz on Thursday again alleged the military leader had improperly weighed in on the case. Pakistan’s minister of state for information and broadcasting dismissed her claims as baseless.

Amjad Shoaib, a defense expert and retired lieutenant general, told Voice of America that Hameed’s nomination as Peshawar Corps commander was an important signal because it is customary in the Pakistan army for the army chief to have first been a corps commander.

This will be Hameed’s first posting as a corps commander, making him one of just a few front-runners who could replace the current army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, whose term is expected to end in November 2022.

Shoaib also said that Hameed was highly engaged in Afghanistan in recent months, and as Peshawar Corps commander, he will likely be in a better position to assist the Pakistani army on Afghan issues.

This story originated in VOA’s Urdu Service.

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