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03 December 2023

Zardari appoints ally to key Pakistan province


Pakistan's president on Tuesday appointed a close political ally as governor in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, dismissing the incumbent at a key juncture in the fight against the Taliban.

Syed Masood Kausar, a provincial leader in the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and prominent lawyer, will take up his new post on Thursday, presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar told AFP.

The governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is also the top administrator for the semi-autonomous tribal belt, where Pakistan is fighting a war against homegrown Taliban and Al-Qaeda linked militants.

Kausar replaces Owais Ahmad Ghani, governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for three years and a political independent, who was once close to former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, whom President Asif Ali Zardari replaced after elections in 2008.

Farahnaz Ispahani, a spokeswoman for Zardari, told AFP that Kausar's appointment was an administrative decision designed to improve governance.

Mian Iftikhar Hussain, provincial information minister and member of the ruling Awami National Party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province paid tribute to the outgoing governor and said there were no objections to what he called a "routine change".

Kausar is the second PPP governor appointed in a month. On January 11, Zardari appointed former attorney general Sardar Latif Khosa as governor of Punjab province to replace assassinated PPP member Salman Taseer.

Pakistan's northwest is on the front line of the US-led war on Al-Qaeda with the tribal belt subject to a covert American drone campaign authorised by the government, but hugely unpopular among Pakistanis.

The region is also subject to near daily bomb and gun attacks blamed on homegrown Taliban militants, which years of Pakistani military offensives have failed to quell.