No extension to be given to ISI chief: Report
Last Updated: Thursday, January 19, 2012, 18:35
Islamabad: The Pakistan government will not grant any further extension to ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, whose current term ends in March, and is considering the names of three generals to replace him, according to a media report on Thursday.

The government's decision not to grant any further extension to Pasha, a close aide of army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, was made against the backdrop of a recent spike in tensions between the civilian administration and the military.

The front-runners for the post of ISI chief include Chief of General Staff Lt Gen Wahid Arshad, Karachi Corps Commander Lt Gen Muhammad Zahirul Islam and Peshawar Corps Commander Lt General Khalid Rabbani, 'The Express Tribune' quoted its sources as saying. All three are to retire in 2014.

A military source told the Tribune that Islam is believed to be a strong contender because of a previous stint with the ISI. Before being appointed the Karachi Corps Commander, Islam was the head of ISI's internal wing that deals with counter-intelligence and domestic issues.

An unnamed government official told the daily that a decision had been made that no further extension would be granted to Pasha, whose relations with the government have become strained after he actively pursued the memo scandal.

Pasha has been granted two extensions since he reached the age of retirement in March 2010 and both were for a year. The government had said he had been retained for his key role in the war on terrorism.

The government plans to appoint the new ISI chief weeks before Pasha's tenure ends on March 18 in a bid to pre-empt any further misunderstanding with the military, the official was quoted as saying. There were no indications that Kayani would be interested in an extension for Pasha, the report said.

The appointment of Pasha's successor will assume greater significance in the backdrop of recent tensions between the government and the military over the alleged memo that had sought US help to stave off a possible coup last year.

Though the Prime Minister has the authority to appoint the future ISI chief, it would be a rare move for the civilian government to take the decision without having the military establishment on board, the report said.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has reportedly been a "specific target of the military's ire", it added. Gilani's recent remarks that the army and ISI chiefs had acted in an "unconstitutional and illegal" manner in their handling of the memo issue earned a rebuke from the military, which said his comments could have "grievous consequences".

The premier had also sacked the Defence Secretary, a retired general considered close to Kayani, on charges of gross misconduct. The Secretary has challenged the sacking in court. Past attempts by former Prime Ministers to appoint generals closer to the civilian government as the ISI chief have backfired.

Slain premier Benazir Bhutto appointed Lt Gen (retired) Shamsur Rahman Kallu as the ISI chief during her first tenure but the move only led to strained ties between her government and then army chief Gen Mirza Aslam Baig.

Similarly, Nawaz Sharif appointed Lt Gen (retired) Ziauddin Butt as the ISI head during his tenure but the decision led to eventual ouster of his government by then army chief Gen Parvez Musharraf in October 1999.

Despite the current friction between civil and military authorities, consultations are believed to be underway for the appointment of the new ISI chief.


First Published: Thursday, January 19, 2012, 18:35

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