Tenure nears end: No more extensions for ISI chief

Published: January 19, 2012
The appointment of a new
DG ISI is bound to become an
intriguing affair.

The appointment of a new DG ISI is bound to become an intriguing affair.


Given the spike in civil-military tensions, it comes as no surprise that the embattled government will not pursue any further extension to retain the services of Director General (DG) of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt General Ahmed Shuja Pasha.

To the contrary, the government is believed to be actively considering naming a successor before General Pasha’s extended tenure comes to an end on March 18. There have also been no indications that army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani would be interested in an extension for the current DG ISI.

The appointment of a successor will assume greater significance in the backdrop of recent tensions. Even though the prime minister has the authority to appoint the future spymaster, it would be a rare move for the civilian government to take the decision without the military establishment on board.

It is also of note that the appointing authority, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, has reportedly been a specific target of the military’s ire. First, his statements to a Chinese daily were met with a strong-worded reply by the army – which then is reported have approached President Zardari to demand a retraction from the premier.

The prime minister also unceremoniously sacked the defence secretary, a retired general though to be close to the army chief. The defence secretary has challenged the move in court, and has leveled strong accusations against the premier.

The appointment of a new DG ISI is bound to become an intriguing affair.

A government official told The Express Tribune that a decision had already been taken that no further extension would be granted to Lt-Gen Pasha, whose relations with the government also strained after he actively pursued the Memogate case.

The official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, disclosed that the government was planning to appoint the new DG ISI weeks before Pasha’s tenure expires in a bid to preempt any further misunderstanding with the military.

However, in the past, attempts by former prime ministers to strategically appoint generals closer to the civilian government at the key slot have backfired. Benazir Bhutto appointed Lt General (retd) Shamsur Rahman Kallu as the DG ISI during her first tenure but the move only led to strained ties between her government and the then army chief General Mirza Aslam Baig.

Similarly, Nawaz Sharif  had appointed Lt General (retd) Ziauddin Butt as the DG ISI during his tenure, but the decision led to eventual ouster of his government by the then army chief General Parvez Musharraf in October 1999.

Even so, despite the current friction between civil and military authorities, consultations are believed to be underway for the appointment of the new DG ISI.

Sources close to The Express Tribune have revealed that at least three names have surfaced for the post. Frontrunners include Chief of General Staff Lt General Wahid Arshad, Corps Commander Karachi Lt-General Muhammad Zahirul Islam and Corps Commander Peshawar Lt-General Khalid Rabbani. All three are to retire in 2014.

Another military source claimed that Lt-General Zahirul Islam is believed to be a strong contender for the position because of a previous stint with the ISI. Before being appointed Corps Commander Karachi, he was the head of ISI’s internal wing which dealt with counter-intelligence and domestic issues. However, there is no official confirmation on whether the army has formally forwarded the proposed names to the government.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 19th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (37)

  • Imran
    Jan 19, 2012 - 6:09AM

    Extension zada jernails must go now!


  • ABC
    Jan 19, 2012 - 6:15AM

    It’s all about power politics and kursi


  • Mard-e-Haq
    Jan 19, 2012 - 6:22AM

    He can always join an American think tank as a military consultant and advise accordingly on more effective drone strikes. He was doing little else till now.


  • khan
    Jan 19, 2012 - 6:24AM

    good riddance.. its more than time this one leaves the seat…


  • adeel759
    Jan 19, 2012 - 6:27AM

    send him home.


  • ck
    Jan 19, 2012 - 6:36AM

    rabbani wont retire till 2015 atleast.. waheed arshad will be promoted.


  • Jan 19, 2012 - 6:37AM

    I hope Gilani appoints the ISI chief on his own merit. Kayani may submit recommendations, but this should be Gilani’s decision and his alone. If Gilani picks someone other than Kayani’s nomination he be fully supported in this, army chief’s ego be damned. The government should use this opportunity to reinforce the supremacy of the elected government.


  • mohtamim ahmad
    Jan 19, 2012 - 6:53AM

    And will Gen Pasha face a trial for the killing of Saleem Shehzad by his agency after he retires?


  • Khan
    Jan 19, 2012 - 6:59AM

    No extension


  • Hafiz Shah Ali
    Jan 19, 2012 - 7:17AM

    Let the best man head the ISI.
    ISI is very important institution due to variety of external challenges and opportunities


  • Bilal
    Jan 19, 2012 - 7:28AM

    The govt should sack him right now – as a matter of principle.


  • Balma
    Jan 19, 2012 - 8:23AM

    There is no such person as General Ziauddin Butt. His real name is Khwaja Ziauddin.
    Media people: fix your records.
    Tribune people: Correct the error. If you don’t believe me,check the record or ask the guy himself.
    Not every Kashmiri has a last name Butt, guys!


  • Usman
    Jan 19, 2012 - 8:52AM

    I hope the Prime Minister has no say in the appointment of DG ISI, otherwise he will recommend another convict for the job, like he’s done with PIA, Railways, PSM etc.


  • questioner
    Jan 19, 2012 - 8:57AM

    Why did Gillani dole out extensions at first place to Pasha?


  • Haseeb
    Jan 19, 2012 - 9:22AM

    Why was he given extension… he should be sent home earlier…
    There is no retirement age in Military… once they get retired they get another job very easily… Recommend

  • Haji Bul Bul
    Jan 19, 2012 - 9:25AM

    What extension? Try him for treason.


  • Mirza
    Jan 19, 2012 - 9:29AM

    Why not bring ISI under civilian control? Why not appoint a retired SC judge or some civilian as the head of ISI? Time to catch up with the other countries of the world.


  • faraz
    Jan 19, 2012 - 9:34AM

    Here a general behaves as if he is a military genius, who has just won a great war, and is thus indispensable


  • Farhan Gilgiti
    Jan 19, 2012 - 9:53AM

    Pasha and Kayani should not have been given extensions. There was no dearth of “able” generals. the political governments have a legacy of digging own grave.


  • MarkH
    Jan 19, 2012 - 10:05AM

    He’ll appoint someone who supports and desires ISI answering to the civilian government. If he’s smart, at least.


  • Beatle
    Jan 19, 2012 - 11:07AM

    Traditionally speaking, GHQ recommends to the PM names of 3 Generals of their choice to chose from. But it is also a fact that the one selected is always with the consent of COAS, meaning thereby its choice of COAS indirectly. Only 2 occasions when PM appointed one of his own choice, and it back-fired both time. Lets wait and see what happens this time.


  • K B Kale
    Jan 19, 2012 - 11:16AM

    Pakistan should start a healthy practice of not giving extension to anyone in Khaki or in judiciary. This is routinely followed by Indian Government. So not only Pasha’s but also Kayani’s services should be dispensed with on due date or currently extended date. No more extensions.


  • adeel759
    Jan 19, 2012 - 12:00PM

    @Usman. I agree with your fear but thus institution is not doing any bette than Pakistan Railway and PIA. PIA may be delayed but it does fly, but military cant detect a globally wanted fugitive, cant detect Helicopters, can’t protect its own headquarters. Recommend

  • alicia
    Jan 19, 2012 - 12:23PM

    He should never have been given extension. It goes against principals and affects the performance of ISI


  • ubaid
    Jan 19, 2012 - 12:47PM

    ISI is Inter Services Intelligence, and as the name suggests( inter services = army, navy and air force) the head of ISI should also be from the armed forces, normally which is the army.
    Where as IB is an intelligence body which is headed a person other than military.


  • Jan 19, 2012 - 1:18PM

    Justice (R) Rana Bhagwan Das be made the head of premier intelligence agency!!!

    Munawar Ali Rind

  • Maryam
    Jan 19, 2012 - 2:33PM

    No Extention, Please.


  • Maryam
    Jan 19, 2012 - 3:12PM

    The ISI head should be a civilian as it was there in Charter of Democracy. We need our elected representatives to have both the responsibility and power to lead us from crisis.


  • Roflcopter
    Jan 19, 2012 - 3:36PM

    General Pasha served the country well. I hope the next ISI chief is just as good.


  • ZKhan
    Jan 19, 2012 - 6:30PM

    It will be an interesting move to watch. Apparantly Gilani-Kiyani tussle is on peak. In case Gilani is sincere in his claims to get rid off the army domination should resort to entirely independent decision. Internal posting of army generals follow a pre defined pattern. At one or other stage Kiyani is aught to be involved being COAS. Any serving general being picked up as DGISI has to be relieved from his current portfolio and in that scenario role of COAS Kiani will come in. How effectively and strongly Gilani can get his choice relieved of army will be intresting to watch.


  • AS
    Jan 19, 2012 - 7:49PM

    Gen Ziauddin was a serving general not retired when he was appointed to head ISI.


  • DB
    Jan 19, 2012 - 9:21PM

    ISI does not rely on personalities unlike political parties. Another brave and patriot general will take his place and liberals will cry some more.


  • hamza khan
    Jan 19, 2012 - 9:33PM


    because the ISI is a military organization, and cannot be headed by a civilian. the ET has already had this discussion. its not happening.


  • Mirza
    Jan 20, 2012 - 1:27AM

    @hamza khan:
    Dear Khan Sahib, war and peace is a serious business and we cannot leave it to the generals, especially after their history. Yes, it is a wishful thinking. You are right. Not happening in Pakistan.


  • Paul
    Jan 20, 2012 - 3:00AM

    He deserves at least three years more till he helps bring to justice all the traitors!!!


  • Paul
    Jan 20, 2012 - 3:01AM

    All the politicians of the country, including PM and President, should have their premises bugged!!! They are on the list of the biggest traitors who use democracy as a cover for their crimes.


  • J Oberoi
    Jan 30, 2012 - 8:40AM

    Everywhere else in the world, the appointment of the Intelligence Chief is a low-key affair and the news seldom makes it to the media. But in Pakistan it is a headline story.


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