Monday 25 September 2017

Pakistan in turmoil as furious generals hint at coup d'etat

Andrew Buncombe in London

The dispute between Pakistan's civilian administration and the military has erupted again after the army warned of "grievous consequences" for the country, and the prime minister sacked the defence secretary.

In the latest twist in a dispute that has simmered for months, the army yesterday issued a statement that said recent comments made by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had "very serious ramifications with potentially grievous consequences for the country".

The army's stern warning came after an increasingly bold Mr Gilani gave an interview to a Chinese newspaper in which he said the army chief, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, and the head of military intelligence, Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, had acted unconstitutionally by giving evidence to a supreme court investigation. He claimed that they should have first sought the government's approval.

The dispute between the army and the government swirls around the ramifications of a memo sent last spring to the US military, allegedly at the behest of President Asif Ali Zardari.

According to a US-Pakistani businessman who said he was asked to act as an intermediary, the note asked for assistance in reining in Pakistan's generals and preventing them from launching a coup in the wake of the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Pakistan's supreme court has set up an investigatory panel to establish whether the note was sanctioned by Mr Zardari, something that could lead to his possible impeachment.

As part of the inquiry, Mr Kayani and Mr Pasha, along with many others, submitted statements to the court.

As the army issued its statement denouncing Mr Gilani, he announced he was firing the country's Defence Secretary Naeem Khalid Lodhi, a retired general who acted as a bridge between the military and the civilian government.

Lt-Gen Lodhi was dismissed for what was described as "gross misconduct and illegal action" by submitting the statements of General Kayani and Lt-Gen Pasha to the court.

The memogate controversy underlines the tension that has existed since a civilian government came to office in 2008.

Earlier this week, the supreme court issued a notice saying it could dismiss Mr Gilani if he did not follow an earlier directive to reopen corruption proceedings against the president. (© Independent News Service)

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