Pak blogger hacked for tweet against new ISI chief

19th June 2019

19th June 2019

Muhammad Bilal Khan: the hacked critic of Pak army

The murder of famous blogger Muhammad Bilal within hours of appointment of Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed as the new head of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has sent ripples across the border in India as a signal that the more things change in Pakistan the more it remains the same.

Bilal, who had a considerable following on social media—twitter (16,000), youtube (48,000) and facebook (22,000)-- was a known critic of Pakistan army and had tweeted against the appointment of Lt. Gen Hameed as the new face of ISI. Within hours, he had been hacked to death. Soon, the hashtag #Justice4MuhammadBilalKhan was trending big on twitter.

Hameed’s appointment is being watched closely in India since he is said to be a close confidante of army chief Javed Bajwa who has played a critical role in harbouring dreaded terrorists, such as Masood Azhar and Hafiz Saeed, outlawed by the United Nations. Bajwa has also taken the cross-border terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir to a different level altogether.

Bajwa is set to retire in November this year but the appointment of Hameed eases the way for his extension till 2022. The three-member committee which would take a call on the matter consists of Bajwa himself besides the prime minister (Imran Khan) and ISI chief (Lt. Gen Hameed). There is little gainsaying that Bajwa’s extension is a foregone conclusion.

It would be a quid pro quo since Bajwa has helped in Hameed getting his new job. In Pakistan, a Prime Minister is entrusted to appoint chief of ISI in consultation with the army chief. In reality though, it’s the army chief who runs the show and decides upon critical appointments. Further, the head of ISI is answerable only to the army chief.

This reaffirms the belief that a civilian government in Pakistan is a puppet in the hands of Pakistan’s army and Imran Khan is no different. Gen. Bajwa indeed is strengthening his hold over various institutions as evident in being a member of the new Economy Security Council in the making.

Lt Gen Faiz Hameed’s name came to the fore during the siege laid by a Barelvi extremist group ‘Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) in Islamabad in 2017 which paralyzed the Pakistan’s Capital for three weeks.  TLP was protesting a change in the oath of office in the Elections Act that it said diluted Pakistan’s anti-Ahamadiyya laws.  Attempts to negotiate failed and the government launched a police-operation which also flopped.

The Islamabad High Court magistrate, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui then ordered the government to lift the seige, by dialogue or by force within 24 hours. The Pakistan Army brokered the talks on behalf of the then Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) (PML-N) government and Faiz Hameed, the then Major General, represented the government.

On November 27, 2017, TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi announced he was ending the protest. He said that an “army-brokered” agreement had taken place between the protesters and the government. He said he appreciated that the army chief had taken a personal interest in solving the issue by sending Faiz Hameed.  However, as the crowds dispersed, the major-general was reportedly seen distributing white envelopes with Pak Rs 1,000 each to the protesters.

The controversy, however, did not end there as Islamabad High Court questioned  the jurisdiction of the army in making such an agreement.

The elevation of Lt Gen Faiz Hameed to ISI top post is a sign that extremist elements in Pakistan would get a further headwind. It would affect peace and stability in Jammu & Kashmir. The ‘Mullah-Military alliance’, the brain-child of ISI propagated under President Zia-ul-Haque in early 1980s, would continue to wreak terror.

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