Islamabad: Pakistan is set to appoint a retired general as the new National Security Advisor (NSA), in a move that shows further strengthening of army's grip of security affairs of the country and its dealings with India.
Replacing the incumbent mild-mannered Sartaj Aziz with Lieutenant General (retd) Nasir Khan Janjua, who retired earlier this month, is also being seen as sending a message to India after cancellation of NSA-level talks at the last minute in August.
Sources said that Aziz, 86, who currently holds the dual office of NSA and a de facto foreign minister as advisor on foreign affairs, has been relieved of his role as the national security advisor to let him focus on the foreign ministry which has been suffering due to the hectic nature of his work.
An official in the government said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has overcome the hesitation to have an ex-general as NSA. Sharif was ousted in a 1999 coup by the military during a previous term as prime minister.
"I think a final decision will be made after Prime Minister's visit to the US," he said on anonymity.
Sharif today left for Washington and will complete the important trip in October 23.
Janjua retired as chief of southern command and effectively controls the affairs of the restive Balochistan while staying at the command headquarters in the provincial capital Quetta.
A security official said that as chief of the key southern command, he had been dealing the two hot issues of Afghanistan and alleged "Indian support for separatist in Balochistan" fighting a low-level insurgency.
"He tactfully handled the situation and the provincial security situation had improved a lot, winning support for him for the key post from the army chief," the official said, indicating Raheel Sharif's growing influence on the government.
For over half of its nearly 70 years of independence, Pakistan has been ruled by its powerful military.
His appointment is a message to India which Pakistan accuses for supporting militancy in Balochistan through its influence over the Kabul government, he said.
It also shows further strengthening of army's grip of security affairs of the country, sources said.
After the appointment, Janjua will lead the NSA-level talks with India if and when the talks are revived as agreed during the Ufa summit.
He will also handle the issue of talks between Taliban and Afghan government.
Janjua will be the second military official to hold the post after ex-Major General Mehmood Durrani.
He is considered as a thinking soldier and has also served as president of the National Defence University, which is army's main institution of higher learning.