Quashing rumors of another extension for Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani on Friday appointed Lt General Zaheerul Islam the Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
After serving as the Commander of the V Corps, a key military administrative unit that is based in Karachi, Lieutenant-General Zaheerul Islam will step into Pasha’s boots as DG of the Pakistan’s premier secret agency. He is in his late 50s and is due to reach the age of superannuation in the year 2014.
A short notification issued by the PM Secretariat reads, “Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has appointed Lt-Gen Zaheerul Islam, corps commander Karachi, as new director general of the Inter Services Intelligence”.
This appointment was made on the recommendation of Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani while nomination was supposedly backed by President Asif Ali Zardari.
The new spy master will take charge of his new assignment on March 18 when Gen Pasha will retire after heading the ISI for over three years.
Due to strong loyalty to the army chief, Pasha held the top slot and won two one-year extensions in 2010 and 2011.
The appointment of Gen Islam, who previously headed the ISI’s internal wing under Gen Pasha for almost two years, indicates tenacity at the ISI as Afghan peace and reconciliation efforts are picking momentum and coalition forces are scheduled to complete their withdrawal by 2014.
According to the reports, Pasha had requested the military chief in December to relieve him of his duties as the ISI chief. His tenure as ISI chief was overshadowed by a single event – the killing of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden by US Special Forces in Abbottabad on May 2, 2011.
He came under intense criticism at home after Osama bin Laden’s killing for his agency’s failure to detect Al Qaeda chief living close to the Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul and more significantly for not being able to know that the Americans planned to carry out an operation deep inside Pakistan to take out the fugitive terror outfit leader.
The outgoing ISI chief’s role in the memo-gate made him more controversial. The new ISI chief, who has a little over two years in active military service (till Oct 2014) is said to be a typical infantry soldier.
He is from the Punjab regiment and has held several high-profile positions. He was the Chief of Staff at the Army Strategic Forces Command from 2004-2006.