Islamabad versus Rawalpindi: the focus on ISI

The refusal to extend the tenure of the ISI Chief Lt Gen Shuja Pasha is hardly a political triumph for Pakistan's civilian leadership—President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

There had been some speculation in the Pakistani media that Islamabad in deference to Rawalpindi, the city next door that hosts the Pakistan's army's headquarters, might keep Gen Pasha in office for a little longer.

Last March, Gen Pasha got an extension in service for a year. A few months before that Islamabad give the army chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani a full second term of three years.

Much has happened in Pakistan since then. The US Special Forces raided and executed Osama bin Laden in the garrison town of Abbottabad right under the nose of the Pakistan army last May.

As Rawalpindi struggled to cope with the loss of face, Zardari and Gilani missed an opportunity to confront the army and redefine civil military relations in Pakistan.

No good deed, as they say, goes unpunished. If Zardari and Gilani let Kayani and Pasha off the hook, the army reciprocated by backing charges—under the so called 'memogate'—that Islamabad sought Washington's help in putting Rawalpindi down in the tense days after the killing of bin Laden.

In these circumstances, it would have been utterly self-demeaning if Zardari and Gilani had chosen to prolong Gen Pasha's reign at the ISI. Islamabad's role in the appointment of Lt Gen Zahirul Islam as the successor to Gen Pasha is not clear.

Were Zardari and Gilani simply endorsing the army chief Gen Kayani's choice or did they have a preference of their own?

The civil military tussle in Pakistan has acquired a different

dimension with the decision of the activist Supreme Court to relook at a 16-year old accusation that the ISI sought to influence the outcome of the 1990 general election.

... contd.

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