ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's government will extend the term of the head of its main intelligence agency to ensure continuity at a time of pressing security problems, Dawn newspaper reported on Friday.
Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, director general of the military's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, is due to retire this month but will remain in office, perhaps for two more years, the Dawn newspaper said.
Pasha, a former head of military operations for the army, was appointed head of the ISI in September 2008, at a time when US officials questioned the reliability of the spy agency in the campaign against militancy.
Since then, Pakistan's security forces have taken concerted action against militants fighting the state, although doubts linger about Pakistan's commitment in fighting Afghan Taliban militants based along the lawless border.
Pasha is generally seen as getting on well with his US counterparts, although ties between the allies' spy agencies have been strained recently over the Raymond Davis case.
The CIA contractor, Raymond Davis, says he acted in self-defence when he killed two Pakistanis and the United States says he has diplomatic immunity.
Pakistan says the courts must decide and Davis, who is currently being held in jail, is facing trial for murder.
Pasha had been due to retire this time last year but Prime Minister Yusaf Raza Gilani extended his term for a year. Gilani is expected to extend his term again, following consultation with powerful army chief General Ashfaq Kayani, whose approval for the decision is crucial, Dawn said.
"He enjoys the full confidence of the chief (Kayani) and is fully committed to fighting religious extremism and militancy," an unidentified senior official told the newspaper.
An official in the prime minister's office said he had no information about any decision on the matter while a senior intelligence official said Pasha's extension was a possibility.
"It is in the offing," the intelligence official said.
Pakistan, which backed Afghanistan's Taliban during the 1990s, could play a crucial role in efforts to stabilise its western neighbour, where US forces hope to begin a gradual withdrawal later this year.
The ISI oversees efforts in combating militants, who have been attacking the agency as well as other security and government targets. It also plays a major role in foreign policy.
India and Afghanistan view the spy agency, which is often referred to as a "state within a state", with great suspicion. Pakistan's civilian politicians also fear it for its role in past military coups.
Army chief Kayani had been due to retire late last year but the government extended his term for three years. Analysts say while extending top officers' terms ensures continuity, it can lead to dissatisfaction among officers hoping to move up the chain of command who see their progress stalled.
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