Musharraf backers get top army posts

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By IMTIAZ GUL
  • Published 3.10.04
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Islamabad, Oct. 2 Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf has appointed two close confidantes to top positions in the country?s powerful army, military officials said today.

Lieutenant-General Ehsan ul Haq, head of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency, has been named as new chairman of the joint chiefs of staff committee, while the military commander of Karachi, Lieutenant-General Ahsan Saleem Hayat, has been appointed vice-chief of the army staff.

Hayat and Haq will assume their new responsibilities on October 7 after the retirement of General Yusuf Khan and General Mohammad Aziz Khan on October 6.

Hayat is the senior most lieutenant general of the Pakistan army and, unlike in the past, Musharraf has upheld principles of seniority.

?Both the generals are professional soldiers and enjoy great respect in the armed forces,? Ikram Sehgal, a leading defence analyst said.

Defence sources said that the new corps commander of Karachi and the DG ISI would be appointed soon. For these posts, two new major generals may be promoted to the rank of lieutenant generals. Another reshuffle in the Pakistan army top command and staff positions is also expected early next year with the retirement of at least three to four lieutenant generals.

Haq is known as an urbane uniform officer who shares the moderate version of Islam espoused by Mohammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan.

He took over as head of the ISI shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US and is credited with clearing out senior intelligence officers most closely associated with the support for the Taliban.

Hayat narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in June which was blamed on al Qaida-linked militants angered over Pakistan?s support for the war on terror.

Musharraf promised to quit as army chief by the end of 2004 in a deal he struck with the Islamic Opposition groups last year. But he has given strong signals that he will break that promise.