Military coup fears in Pak, Def Secy fired

Amid deepening political crisis brewing in Pakistan over the memogate scandal, Gilani sacked Defence Secretary Khalid Naeem Lodhi.

Updated: Jan 12, 2012, 00:11 AM IST

Zeenews Bureau

Islamabad: In what could further aggravate the political crisis brewing in Pakistan over the memogate scandal, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Wednesday sacked Defence Secretary Khalid Naeem Lodhi.

A statement issued by the Prime Minister’s office said that Lodhi was being dismissed "for creating misunderstanding between the state institutions" and accused him of "gross misconduct and illegal action”.

Cabinet Secretary Nargis Sethi was ceded additional charge of the post of Defence Secretary.

Hours after he fired the Defence Secretary, Prime Minister Gilani said that the
top defence official had violated rules of business and so, had to go.

Gilani also rejected murmurs of any threat to democracy, saying it was now Pakistan`s "destiny".

"The Senate elections will be held on time, democracy will stay in Pakistan, democracy in Pakistan`s destiny now and all institutions will function under the government," he said.

An incensed Pak Army called for an emergency meeting of core commanders in Rawalpindi on Thursday. The Army also brought in Brigadier Sarfaraz
Ali as the new commander of Rawalpindi-based Army unit that
has traditionally played a vital role in military coups.

Earlier on Monday, PM Gilani was reported to have accused the chiefs of Army and Intelligence agency ISI of violating the constitution by submitting statements to the Supreme Court about a scandal involving a memo sent to the US that exposed the Pakistani government’s fears of a military takeover by the Army.

Reacting to Gilani’s allegations, Pak military has warned of “grievous consequences” while the ISI has said that the Prime Minister’s decision would have ‘serious ramifications”.

The Inter-Services Public Relations, the military`s media arm, said Gilani had termed the responses of Kayani and Pasha in the court as illegal and unconstitutional.

"There can be no allegation more serious than what the prime minister has levelled against (Kayani and Pasha) and has unfortunately charged the officers (with) violation of the constitution.

The latest tussle between the Army and the government is only an extension of an unease that set in after the memo scandal gained momentum.

The Pakistani judiciary is probing a memo delivered to former US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen by Pakistani American Mansoor Ijaz seeking to prevent a military coup which President Asif Ali Zardari allegedly feared after the killing of Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden by US commandos in May 2011.

The recent apple of discord between the Army and the government, Defence Secretary Lt Gen (retired) Khalid Naeem Lodhi, is considered to be very close to the Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

He was issued a showcause notice in December last year for submitting an affidavit on the memo scandal to the Supreme Court without seeking approval from the Defence Minister.

Lodhi’s affidavit in the Supreme Court stated that the government had only limited administrative control over the Army and ISI.

This affidavit irked PM Gilani, who reacted by saying it was unacceptable for the Army to act as a "state within a state".

The latest development has only sharpened the differences between the Army and the government and may prove to be the spark that would ignite the fire as many analysts believe that this may lead to dismissal of the four year old Zardari-headed administration that has been reeling from one crisis to another since it came to power in 2008.

The fears of the military takeover, in a nation which has been under military dictatorships for about half its history since independence, also gain prominence with the Army bringing in Brigadier Sarfaraz Ali as the new commander of Rawalpindi-based Army unit, who is known to be specialised for military coups.

The Pakistan military has carried out three coups so far in nuclear-armed Pakistan and is considered the chief power-weilder in the country.

Besides the military,the Gilani government also seems to be at odds with the country’s judiciary which seeks to reopen the corruption cases against the President Zardari.

It may be noted that the Supreme Court yesterday came up with an eyebrows-raising statement against Gilani that said, “Prima facie, the Prime Minister is not an honest man and violated his oath.”

To, which a “shocked” Gilani reacted by saying that he was hurt.

"I was shocked to hear the comments of the (judge) that I am a dishonest man. I am hurt that he has said I am dishonest even without hearing me or without even talking to me," Gilani said.

The government has convened a special session of the lower house of parliament tomorrow to discuss the apex court`s warning that action could be taken against the President and Prime Minister for failing to revive the corruption cases.