India is all set to get its new Intelligence Bureau chief S Asif Ibrahim, who will become the first Muslim to hold that post. However, there could be a debate on the issue of seniority since there are officers from the 1976 batch who were overlooked for this post. Ibrahim is part of the 1977 batch, says Vicky Nanjappa.
An officer said that it is completely wrong to think that Muslims were not considered for this post.
"There have been few Muslims in the Intelligence Bureau. The position of IB director is considered either on terms of seniority or complete professionalism," an officer pointed out.
As far as Ibrahim, he is a professional and an outstanding officer with the widest range of experience. Among all the officers available in the IB today, he sure is one of the best and one cannot fault him one with on the professional aspect," the officer added.
The only issue however is that in the earlier batch of 1976, there were three other officers who were special directors and also had a decent tenure left. This raises the question of seniority. However, many other officers feel that professionalism in this day and age should be the only criteria for the appointment of an IB chief and Ibrahim was right for the job.
The question of a Muslim heading this post is the main issue which is likely to be brought up by many. Some feel that the timing of the government is questionable.
"If for all other appointments they have maintained that seniority shall be the only issue, then we don't understand what they were thinking this time. With all due respect to Ibrahim, I think that the criteria of seniority is being used selectively," a source pointed out.
But many officers feel that his being a Muslim is hardly an issue.
"There is no need for one community to feel elated and other communities to feel insecure. The IB is not a one-man show. To brand the IB as a communal organisation is a foolish thing to do. Our job is to collect intelligence, study it and leave it to the police to act upon it. The IB does not have the power to book cases and prosecute people. Hence if there is intelligence on a Brahmin or a Rajput or any other community, it shall be collected, studied and handed over to the police. It is very wrong to say that the IB is communal," said an official.
Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan, president, All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat (the umbrella body of Indian Muslim organisations) said, "I saw this news in the morning papers. It is indeed a new beginning and I hope it will help alter the image of the IB, which is normally seen as a bastion of upper caste Hindus."
"Surely, one officer is not going to overhaul the whole system but, nonetheless, this is a good beginning. I hope this will be followed up with more recruitment from the ranks of the minorities and unrepresented groups," he said.
Ibrahim is a 1977 IPS officer from the Madhya Pradesh cadre and is currently serving as a special director in the IB. Born in 1953 at Kanpur, he served as a private secretary to the late Madhavrao Scindia while he was the minister for railways.
He also worked with former Home Minister and Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mufti Mohammad Syed. He has handled the Kashmir desk in the IB and was also posted at Delhi, Jaipur and also at the Indian high commission in London.
Ibrahim would have a two-year tenure as the IB chief.