ISI chief unlikely to get another extension

ISI chief unlikely to get another extension

Pakistan government is unlikely to grant another extension to ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, whose current term in office ends in March, sources said today.

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.

Sources told PTI 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.

Karachi Corps Commander Lt Gen Muhammad Zahirul Islam is being widely tipped to replace 59-year-old Pasha, who is set to step down on March 18.

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 head of ISI's internal wing that deals with counter-intelligence and domestic issues.

Meanwhile, asked about the issue of giving an extension to Pasha during an interaction with journalists last night, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani only said a decision would be made at the "appropriate time".

Latest media reports had claimed that the government was giving another extension to Pasha in an attempt to heal a rift with the security establishment following the memo scandal.

"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 following his return from Switzerland, where he attended the World Economic Forum, 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.

Gilani 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 9, 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

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