Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the head of Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) retired on March 18 after three and a half years of serving in the post. Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s announcement of Pasha’s successor on March 9 ended speculation that the spy chief would be offered an extraordinary third extension. Pasha’s successor, Lieutenant General Zahirul Islam, takes over at a delicate time for U.S.-Pakistan relations and Pakistani civil-military relations alike. His selection offers insight into how Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership intend to tackle the difficult challenges in the months to come.
Prime Minister Gilani announced General Islam’s appointment nine days before the end of Pasha’s term. General Islam’s qualifications, previous postings and relationship with Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani reportedly make him the “safe choice” for the position and likely presages continuity of current policies rather than massive upheavals within the agency.
General Islam, 56, hails from a prominent military family and graduated from the Pakistan Military Academy’s 55th “Long Course” in 1977. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the infantry in the Punjab Regiment, which is Kayani’s parent regiment as well.
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