Pak PM dismisses reports of extension to ISI chief

ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha is currently set to step down on March 18.

Islamabad: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has dismissed reports that he was considering a proposal to grant another extension to ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha and said a decision on this issue would be made at the "appropriate time".

Gilani rubbished reports in a section of the media about his government giving another extension to Pasha, whose current term ends in March, in an attempt to heal a rift with the security establishment.

"Any decision about an extension for the (Director General of the) ISI will be taken at an appropriate time," Gilani said during an interaction with Pakistani journalists last night following his return from Switzerland, where he attended the World Economic Forum.

Sources said that the Pakistan People`s Party-led government was not in favour of giving another extension to Pasha, whose tenure was extended twice after he reached the age of retirement in March 2010.

He is currently set to step down on March 18. It is believed that the government`s decision has largely been influenced by Pasha`s role in the standoff between the military and the civilian government over the alleged memo that had sought US help to stave off a feared coup in Pakistan last year.

During his media interaction last night, Gilani again sought to put behind him differences with the military over the memo scandal and his criticism of the Army and ISI chiefs for submitting affidavits on the memo issue to the Supreme Court without getting the government’s approval. Gilani said his last meeting with the Army and ISI chiefs on January 24 had focussed on the situation in Afghanistan.

"It`s disinformation that (my) meetings with the military brass prior to my departure for Davos were meant to ease tensions with them," he said.

"There is no need to repeat what I said about the Army before my departure to Davos. Action has been taken against the defence secretary and the situation is now crystal clear," he said.

Earlier this month, Gilani sacked former defence secretary Lt Gen (retired) Khalid Naeem Lodhi for "gross misconduct" and creating misunderstandings between the civilian and military leadership over the memo issue.

He refused to comment on his criticism of Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Pasha for submitting affidavits in the apex court without getting the defence minister’s clearance.

"Things are settling down...I don`t want to re-open the much-debated issue as I’ve already clarified the situation," he said.

Following Gilani`s criticism of the Army and ISI chiefs on January 09, the military hit back two days later, saying his remarks could have "grievous consequences".

Gilani then retaliated by sacking the defence secretary the same day.

Since then, President Asif Ali Zardari has held talks with the military leadership to defuse tensions between the two sides.