Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) Senior Vice-President Maryam Nawaz has called for the court-martial of former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt. Gen. (retd.) Faiz Hameed, telling an interviewer that he had helped destabilize the country by weakening “the PMLN government for two years and supporting Imran Khan’s government for four years.” In the same interview, she described former chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar “the biggest criminal of the nation,” alleging that Faiz used to “give him instructions and he did not refuse to meet him.” Directly calling out the judiciary and military suggests the “apolitical” stance claimed by Chief of Army Staff Gen. Asim Munir has enabled the pointing of fingers in a direction considered taboo in the past.
Hameed, a contender for the Army chief, sought early retirement in November 2022 after the elevation of Gen. Munir. He first rose to prominence as the head of the ISI’s counter-intelligence wing, becoming a household name after signing an agreement between the government and the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) to call off a 21-day-long sit-in at Faizabad in November 2017. His efforts were appreciated by PTI chief Imran Khan, who chose him for the ISI chief after dismissing Asim Munir, the incumbent Army chief. Khan, as prime minister, was also steadfastly against Hameed’s removal as ISI chief despite demands for the same from the military, damaging the “same page” relationship he had enjoyed with the institution earlier. Maryam’s demand reflects a longstanding view of the PMLN leadership, which has repeatedly accused Hameed of influencing courts to ensure convictions against Nawaz Sharif.
Despite ostensibly being a democracy, Pakistan’s history has been marred by the military’s “interference” in politics, with observers lamenting that this has hampered the country’s evolution and linked its progress to the whims of military strongmen. Faiz Hameed was very much part of this tradition, with his naked support for the PTI reflected in his brother’s facilitation of the party during rallies in his hometown of Chakwal.
In 1998, then-Army chief Gen. Jehangir Karamat resigned within days of calling for the creation of a military-dominated council that would play a key role in policymaking—a bid to “formalize” the “interference” of the past. His successor, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, took it a step further through a bloodless coup, ousting then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif and ruling the country as a military dictator for the next eight years. Subsequent calls for the military council recalled that era, claiming its presence would have ensured Sharif never invited then-Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Lahore or resisted the disastrous Kargil plan.
The irony is that when a democratically elected prime minister makes a mistake he is punished, but when a general blunders into defeat, as in Kargil, one is supposed to look the other way. There can be no accountability or desire to make amends in this scenario. Investigating and penalizing Faiz Hameed for his alleged abuse of power is a necessary first step to discourage similar attempts at sidelining political forces by unelected officials of Pakistan’s establishment.