Musharraf's secret service chief is ousted

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Under mounting pressure to confront militants, Pakistan has carried out a shake-up of its military leadership, ousting a Musharraf loyalist as head of the shadowy intelligence agency accused of harbouring links with Islamic extremists.

Pakistan's army chief, Gen Ashfaq Kayani, appointed Lt Gen. Ahmed Shujaa Pasha as the new director-general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), whichcriticised as a "state within a state" and accused of maintaining links with Taliban fighters. Gen Pasha replaces Lt. Gen Nadeem Taj, a relative of former president Pervez Musharraf.

The move follows a secret meeting over the weekend between Pakistan's recently elected president, Asif Ali Zardari, and the CIA head, Michael Hayden, about what the US intelligence organisation called the "double game played by Pakistan's spy agency".

Until now, the Pakistan army has been suspected of working with Washington on one hand while refusing to sever its links with its former militant clients on the other. Relations with the US hit an all-time low after the ISI was charged with being involved in the Taliban's July bomb attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul. Washington has since been accused of launching unauthorised airstrikes and even a ground incursion into Pakistani territory.

Gen Pasha's appointment is likely to be welcomed by Washington and may relax tensions between the two allies. As the head of military operations, Gen Pasha led the campaign against militants based in the rugged tribal areas along the Afghan border, and has spoken out against Islamabad's previous policy of supporting the Taliban.