ISLAMABAD – Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Friday appointed Lt-General Zahirul Islam as new director general of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), bringing to a halt the rumours about the extension in the tenure of the incumbent chief of the country’s top intelligence agency.
A brief notification issued from the PM’s Secretariat stated, “Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has appointed Lt-General Zahirul Islam, Corps Commander Karachi, as new director general Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).” The statement did not carry any further details on the subject.
The appointment of Lt-General Zahir ends speculations on extension in the service to incumbent ISI DG Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, which if given, would have been the third one. Pasha will retire on March 18.
Zahirul Islam has earlier served as the deputy director general of the ISI as a major general. He was then promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general and moved to Karachi. He is said to be a disciplined and focused officer. Sources aware of the development say Pasha declined to get the third extension while both the political and military leadership had no objection on continuing with him for another year in the office.
Sources further said Chief of Army Staff Gen Ishfaq Parvez Kayani had also persuaded Pasha to continue serving as the intelligence chief, but he was adamant to get retirement and finally the COAS had to yield to his insistence. Previously, there was no objection on granting extension to Pasha and it was up to the military leadership to decide the issue after Kayani’s meeting with the president and the prime minister.
Sources further said the selection of new DG ISI was made jointly by Kayani and Pasha, as the DG-designate, Lt-Gen Zahirul Islam, was quite close to the incumbent ISI chief, as he had served under his command as the deputy director general.
It is pertinent to mention that Pasha had asked the army chief in December last to relieve him of his duties, but his request was not entertained.
Sources further informed that the Mangla corps commander along with a few others were considered for the slot of ISI DG, but the consensus was made on Lt-Gen Zahir, keeping in view his experience and the approval of the incumbent DG.
The eventful career of Lt-Gen Pasha, with a lots of ups and downs, including the May 2 clandestine US operation in Abbottabad to kill Osama bin Laden, Raymond Davis saga and memo scandal would end on March 18 and the person who would be stepping in his shoes is one of his close associates, who had served as his deputy in the ace spy agency of the country.
Defence analysts would be seeing it just a change of guards as the new DG ISI and Pasha are on the same page on various matters.
Meanwhile in a related development, DG Sindh Rangers Lieutenant General Ejaz Chaudhry Sindh was appointed as new Karachi corps commander.