Pakistan army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, is to be given a a three-year extension to his term of office to maintain continuity in the country's battle against Islamist militants.
Kayani, arguably Pakistan's most powerful man, had been due to retire in November. His future had been the subject of intense speculation for months, with opinion divided between the those who argued he should be given an extension for the sake of continuity, and those who said that Pakistan needed to build its institutions rather than rely on individuals - as it had done with powerful army rulers in the past.
Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, who announced the extension, said the decision to extend Kayani's term reflected "his effective role in the war against terrorism and in the enforcement of rule of law in the country."
Kayani is considered to have built a good working relationship with the United States - which needs the Pakistan Army's help in fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan - prompting speculation, denied by the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, that Washington had pressed for his term of office to be extended.
He has also been the subject of intense speculation in India, where the views of the army - which controls foreign and security policy even under a civilian government - are seen as crucial to determining the fate of the faltering India-Pakistan peace process.