His was the first official word about the period of extension given to the ISI chief following intense speculation about the new tenure. — File Photo

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Friday cleared the mystery surrounding service extension to Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief, saying Lt-Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha would remain on the job for another year after the expiry of a previous one-year extension on March 18. In response to a question by one of the interviewers during an appearance on DawnNews and the state-run Pakistan Television, the prime minister said his government had decided to keep Gen Pasha on the same position for another year owing to the prevailing security situation in the country.

His was the first official word about the period of extension given to the ISI chief following intense speculation about the new tenure, with some media reports saying the military establishment wanted it to be for two years to last until a three-year extension given to Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani ends in 2013.

When pressed by the interviewer about why the government couldn’t pick a successor from within the army, Mr Gilani said: “Why there is confusion over the extension of ISI Chief? It is very much the right of the government, and we have given him one year’s extension in the same position.”

About his March 30 trip to India to watch the India-Pakistan cricket World Cup semi-final at Mohali, the prime minister said he and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh had agreed in principle to start dialogue on all outstanding issues between their countries, including the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir.

He said interior secretaries of the two countries had a fruitful meeting the day before he went to Mohali, adding that frequency of such meetings would significantly increase in the near future such as a foreign ministers’ meeting in July and meetings of officials from trade and defence departments. Mr Gilani sidestepped a question whether Islamabad had given up its earlier stance for a third-party involvement to help resolve India-Pakistan issues — a proposition opposed by New Delhi — and said there was an increased realisation by the two governments of the need for a speedy resolution of their common problems, adding: “We have to have ownership of our issues.”

Replying to a question about investigation into the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, Mr Gilani said he had received an inquiry report that would be presented before the next meeting of PPP’s central executive committee in the presence of party chairperson Bilawal Bhutto.

The prime minister also disagreed with an interviewer’s suggestion that it was merely for political reconciliation that the government was not sternly dealing with criminal elements involved in target killings in Karachi.

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