Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani fired his defense secretary, Naeem Khalid Lodhi, a retired general with close ties to Pakistan’s army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, according to The New York Times.
Gilani accused Lodhi of “gross misconduct and illegal action” and of “creating misunderstanding between the state institutions,” replacing him with a civilian aide, Nargis Sethi, said the Times.
The news comes as tensions already run high between the Pakistani military and the civilian government in the wake of the memo scandal in which former Pakistani ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, is accused of writing to the United States, asking for support in the event of a military coup against the civilian government by the humiliated Pakistani army, reported the Guardian.
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The memo scandal, which implicates President Asif Ali Zardari, is currently in front of the supreme court, with a judicial commission holding hearings. According to the Guardian, Gilani called the affidavits submitted by Kayani and the head of Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), “unconstitutional and illegal.”
Gilani accused Kayani and ISI head, Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha of acting as a “state within a state,” according to The Times. Viewing Gilani’s comments as potential threats about sacking Kayani and Pasha, the military responded, “This has very serious ramifications with potentially grievous consequences for the country.”
The Times of India reported that a new commander has been named to the Rawalpindi army base, which traditionally played a key role in military coups. Brigadier Sarfaraz Ali will have control of the 111 Brigade, part of the X Corps which has “been called out during past military takeovers to take over key buildings and installations in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.”
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In the meantime, Zardari is facing corruption charges and there is a marked increase in terrorist attacks in Pakistan, adding to the instability in the country.