Islamabad: The chief of Pakistan's powerful spy agency ISI, Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, is likely to head the body that controls the country's nuclear arsenal after the end of his present assignment next month, according to a media report on Sunday.

Pasha is set to step down as Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief on March 18 as the government has decided against extending him another extension, Dawn News channel quoted its sources as saying.

The controversial ISI chief reached the age of retirement in 2010 and has been given two extensions. He is likely to be made the head of the Strategic Plans Division, which controls the nuclear arsenal, the report said.

Pasha has served as the Director General of the ISI for three-and-half years. If Pasha is made the head of the Strategic Plans Division, he will replace Lt Gen (retired) Khalid Kidwai, who has led the organisation for over a decade.

Sources claimed that Pasha's possible appointment as head of the Strategic Plans Division will "help the future of Pak-US nuclear and strategic engagement", the report said.

Following Pasha's alleged role in the scandal over a mysterious memo that had sought US help to prevent a possible military coup in Pakistan, it was reported he would not be given another extension, Dawn News reported.

The government is keeping mum on the issue of Pasha's future for now. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani will take a final decision after a one-on-one meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari, the channel quoted its sources as saying.

The report further said that the government might appoint a non-military official or a retired military officer as the new chief of the ISI.

It added that a source close to Pasha had disclosed that the spy agency chief did not want another extension, particularly after the memo issue which distanced him from the Prime Minister.

Recent reports have said that Karachi Corps Commander Lt Gen Zaheer-ul-Islam and Lahore Corps Commander Lt Gen Rashad Mahmood are among the top contenders for the post of ISI chief.

Others who are in contention for the slot include Director General Joint Staff Lt Gen Muhammad Asif, Adjutant General Lt Gen Javed Iqbal.

Some reports have suggested that Maj Gen Isfandyar Ali Khan Pataudi, a relative of late Indian cricketer Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, and Director General of Military Intelligence, Maj Gen Naushad Kayani, too are in the race.

However, commentators have noted that Pataudi and Kayani are not due for a promotion and the elevation of either of them to the post of ISI chief would mean that several generals would be superseded.