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Chief of ISI is extended for another year

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The Pakistani government has given another one-year extension to the chief of its powerful spy organization, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani announced the decision Friday evening in a television interview with the state-run PTV News and the private network Dawn News. Mr. Gilani said his government had decided to retain Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the director general of the ISI, owing to the “prevailing security situation in the country.”

“We need continuity in the current situation, and the extension was very necessary,” Mr. Gilani said.

The interview was the first public confirmation that the tenure of General Pasha, who is second only to the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, in terms of power and influence, is being extended. This is the second extension given to General Pasha, whom General Kayani has sought to keep by his side as Pakistan grapples with the Taliban insurgency.

General Pasha’s previous extension ended March 18, but there was no official public notification, in contrast to last year, when Mr. Gilani issued a brief statement announcing the extension.

General Kayani was given a three-year extension in July 2010. He is scheduled to retire in 2013, when the terms of both President Asif Ali Zardari and the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, will also end.

There was speculation here that the army was pushing for a two-year extension for General Pasha, to ensure that he also retained his job until 2013. There was little doubt that General Pasha would retain his job after General Kayani again put his weight behind his chosen spy chief.

In his televised interview, Mr. Gilani skirted a question as to why his government could not choose another officer to replace General Pasha. “Why is there confusion over the extension of the ISI chief?” he said. “It is very much the right of the government, and we have given him one year’s extension in the same position.”

The Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate is often described as a state within a state, given its unfettered powers and general lack of accountability and transparency. It has influenced the country’s domestic and foreign policy for decades and continues to do so, leaving a weak civilian government no choice but to play second fiddle.

General Pasha, a career soldier, was appointed head of the directorate in October 2008. He had previously headed military operations and overseen the army’s campaigns against Taliban militants in Pakistan’s volatile northwest region, and he had forged a good relationship with United States officials.

But the relationship between the ISI and the Central Intelligence Agency has not been easy, and it suffered a new blow after Raymond Davis, a C.I.A. security contractor, was arrested in January on charges of killing two people in Lahore.

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