Pakistan extends tenure of ISI chief

Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha was appointed ISI chief in 2008.

Islamabad: Pakistan said on Friday it had given the chief of the country`s powerful military spy agency an extra year in the job after he had been set to retire.

Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, who was appointed chief of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) -- involved in combating al Qaeda and the Taliban -- in 2008, had been due to retire from service last month.

"A one year extension has been given" to the ISI chief, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said on the phone-in programme `Prime Minister Online` on state-run Pakistan Television, adding it was granted to ensure continuity.

"He (Pasha) is an intelligent person," he said. This is the second one-year extension the ISI head has received.

In July last year, Gilani extended the tenure of Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani by three years.

Pasha is considered close to the relatively reformist Kayani, who previously ran the ISI until October 2007 before assuming command of the Army from former president Pervez Musharraf a month later. Musharraf stepped down amid international pressure to end his eight years of military rule.

In theory, the ISI works under the control of the Prime Minister, but in practice its functions are mainly run by Pakistan`s pervasive security establishment.

ISI has been at the centre of concerns among western allies that it is either turning a blind eye to militants in Pakistan`s troubled tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, or even actively sponsoring the rebels.

The shadowy spy agency is feared at home for playing a central, although covert political role. Pakistan has spent more than half its 62-year history under military rule.

Bureau Report

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