`ISI chief Pasha unlikely to get extension`

ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha`s tenure was extended twice after he reached the age of retirement in March 2010.

Lahore: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is unlikely to give another extension to ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha in line with a decision made by the top ruling-PPP leadership, several party leaders said on Thursday.

"There is no question of giving a further extension to Pasha if one goes by the state of relations between the government and the military, especially the premier spy agency, since the US raid in Abbottabad on May 02 last year to
kill Osama Bin laden," said a close aide to President Asif Ali Zardari, who did not wish to be named.

"Some hawks in the PPP even proposed that the ISI chief should have been sacked in the wake of his role in the memo scandal," the Pakistan People`s Party leader said.

He was referring to the controversy over a mysterious memo, made public by Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz, which had sought US help to stave off a possible coup in Pakistan last year.

During the memo controversy, which "nearly proved to be the final nail in the government`s coffin", the ISI chief`s role had been "suspicious", the presidential aide said.

Another PPP leader, who too spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said though there was an impression after Gilani`s recent meeting with the Army and ISI chiefs that government-military relations were on the mend, this was not the case.

"Efforts are still on to get the Prime Minister in one way or another. The Army`s top brass is not happy with him," the leader said.

After Ijaz made the memo public, the ISI chief met him in London to gather evidence about the unsigned document. Questions have been raised about Pasha meeting Ijaz outside the country without getting approval from the Prime Minister, and some in the PPP believed this was enough to initiate action against the ISI chief.While the government insisted that a parliamentary panel should investigate the memo issue, the Army and intelligence chiefs had urged the Supreme Court to order an independent probe.

The apex court subsequently set up a three-judge commission to investigate the scandal.

Prime Minister Gilani recently said that the Army and intelligence chiefs had acted in an "unconstitutional and illegal" manner by filing affidavits on the memo issue in the apex court without getting the Defence Minister`s approval, but subsequently distanced himself from the remarks in an apparent bid to ease tensions with the military.

The presidential aide said the PPP is currently focussed on the contempt notice issued to the Premier by the apex court for failing to act on orders to reopen graft cases against Zardari.

"The first thing before the issue of an extension for the ISI chief is whether Prime Minister Gilani gets away from contempt of court proceedings.”

"If he does, then it will be a defeat to those conspiring against the government, be it through the memo issue or the case of the corruption cases against the President," the aide said.

The rightwing daily Nawa-i-Waqt, which is considered close to the military establishment, recently reported that unnamed "friends" of ISI chief Pasha had said he did not want another extension.

"Lt Gen Pasha does want an extension," a friend of the ISI chief was quoted as saying.

Commenting on this, the PPP leader said, "Perhaps an impression may be created through the media that Mr Pasha is not interested in further extensions".

Pasha`s tenure was extended twice after he reached the age of retirement in March 2010. He is set to step down on March 18.

Asked about the issue of his extension during a recent media interaction, Prime Minister Gilani only said a decision would be made at the "appropriate time".