Kayani, Pasha to be sacked? Pak PM denies

The two generals have been held responsible for forcing Pakistan to adopt an extremely harsh stance towards the US after last month`s NATO air strike.

Islamabad: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Monday dismissed reports that his government was planning to remove the chiefs of the Pakistan Army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency, saying he had personally ensured that both generals were given an extension in service.

"I want to tell you these rumours that the government wants to possibly remove the Director General of the ISI and Gen (Ashfaq Parvez) Kayani is the talk of idiots. It is very wrong for some opportunistic people to present such views among the people," he said during an interaction with a group of journalists this evening.

The government would not have given an extension to both Kayani and ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha if it was not satisfied with them, he said.

"If this were so, I would not have worked to give them an extension," he said.

"They did not seek it (extension), I gave it on my own. I am happy with his (Kayani`s) work, and I want to dispel this impression. Only idiots can say such things," Gilani said in response to questions on whether the government intended to remove the generals.

Reports in a section of the media had said that the government was contemplating the removal of Kayani and Pasha against the backdrop of a standoff on an alleged memo that had sought US help to prevent a military coup in Pakistan in May.

Kayani is currently on a three-year extension given to him in July 2010, while Pasha received a one-year extension last year. The media reports said the government was unhappy with the generals as they had urged the Supreme Court to probe the "Memogate" scandal.

However, Gilani described Kayani as "pro-democracy" and rejected the notion of tensions between his government and the Army.

"How can we run a government if there is any tension?" he asked.

Referring to the roles of Kayani and Pasha in the war on terrorism, Gilani said: "You cannot change the generals in the middle of a war."

The premier contended that his government was in constant contact with the military leadership.

"Today I talked to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee on certain issues," he said.

Asked about his criticism of the Army during a speech in parliament on December 22, when he had said that the government would not accept a "state within a state", Gilani said his remarks had been aimed at Defence Secretary Lt Gen (retired) Khalid Naeem Lodhi.

"My remarks about a state within a state pertained to the attitude of the federal Secretary of Defence. I had spoken in that context and said that every institution is under the government and you cannot have separate governments," he said.

Lodhi has earned the government`s ire by submitting an affidavit on the "Memogate" scandal in the Supreme Court without seeking the approval of the Defence Minister.

Official sources today that a show cause notice had been issued to Lodhi to explain his action.

Gilani told the reporters that the Defence Minister had been asked to ascertain the facts regarding the affidavit submitted in the apex court by the Defence Secretary.

Referring to his speech about the Army in parliament, Gilani said it was his prerogative and right to address the National Assembly or the Senate.

Responding a question about the cross-border NATO air strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last month, Gilani said the Defence Committee of the Cabinet and the political leadership had taken several decisions pertaining to national security.

NATO supply routes were closed, the US was asked to vacate Shamsi airbase and Pakistan boycotted the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan, he said.

The Parliamentary Committee on National Security had been asked to give recommendations that will be debated by a joint session of parliament to frame new terms of engagement with the United States, NATO and ISAF, he said.

In response to another question, he said a judicial commission was looking into the issue of Osama Bin Laden`s presence in Pakistan.

Gilani also took a swipe at cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, who is among those who have been calling for early polls.

The premier contended that all political parties wanted the next general election to be held on schedule in 2013.

"No party is in a hurry for elections. Even the revolutionaries are in no hurry at all for early polls," he said, in a reference to Imran`s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf party
which has been talking of ushering in a revolution in Pakistan`s political system.

There was consensus among all political parties on letting the current system continue, he said.

"Those people who are talking of revolution - are they any new people among the revolutionaries or are they mostly those who wanted to bring revolution along with (former military ruler) Gen (Pervez) Musharraf?" he asked.


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