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RPT-Pakistan puts main spy agency under civilian control

(repeating to fix typo in last paragraph)

ISLAMABAD, July 26 (Reuters) - Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani put the military’s main spy agency under the control of the Interior Ministry on Saturday, a move seen as asserting civilian authority over the powerful intelligence network.

Pakistan’s security outfits, particularly the army’s Inter Services Intelligence agency, have influenced successive governments in the country, and the ISI is also known to have wielded great influence on major foreign and security policies, notably those concerning India and Afghanistan.

“The Prime Minister (has) approved the placement of Intelligence Bureau and Inter Services Intelligence under the administrative, financial and operational control of the Interior Division with immediate effect,” the government said in a statement.

Intelligence Bureau is Pakistan’s main civilian security agency.

Security analysts said the decision was the first move by the civilian government formed after February elections and led by the party of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to assert its authority on Pakistan’s intelligence network.

“Undoubtedly, it’s a good decision. It will ensure better coordination between the intelligence agencies,” former general turned analyst Talat Masood said.

“It’s an effort to assert civilian oversight on the affairs of the intelligence agencies. It’s a good development,” he added.

The government announcement came hours after Gilani embarked on his first official visit to the United States.

Issues relating to the military are always closely watched in Pakistan, which has been ruled by generals for more than half of its 60 years of independence.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who seized power as a general in 1999, stepped down as army chief in November to become a civilian leader.

General Ashfaq Kayani, who succeeded Musharraf as army chief, has taken several steps to take the army out of politics, including ordering all army officers out of civilian posts and barring them from meeting politicians. (Reporting by Zeeshan Haider, editing by Mary Gabriel)