Asia

Pakistan: PM Gilani denies he is to sack army chief

Pakistani army cadets (file photo)
Image caption The military is the strongest institution in Pakistan

Pakistani PM Yousuf Raza Gilani has dismissed reports he is planning to sack army and intelligence chiefs.

This follows latest rumours in the Pakistan media about a rift between politicians and the military.

Earlier, the army chief denied reports of plans to oust the civilian government - after the PM spoke of a conspiracy, referring to the army.

Tensions are high in the wake of a leaked memo that allegedly asked for US help to prevent a military coup.

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari - who recently spent nearly two weeks in Dubai for medical treatment - denies any role in the memo.

Fools' talk

"As far as the rumours that the government wants to remove the DG-ISI [Director-General of Inter-Services Intelligence Lt-Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha] and [army chief] General Kayani, this impression is simply a fools' talk,"Mr Gilani told a news conference.

"This utterly wrong impression is being created by some opportunists."

Mr Gilani said Gen Kayani was "pro-democracy" and that he was happy with his work. He also said that, unsolicited, he had extended the tenure of the two officers last year.

Image caption Mr Gilani, 59, has been prime minister since 2008

In a statement last Friday, Gen Kayani "strongly dispelled the speculation of any military takeover".

The rumours were "misleading and being used as a bogey to divert the focus from the real issues".

The general, who was addressing troops near the Afghan border, "reiterated that (the) Pakistan Army has and will continue to support the democratic process in the country", the statement went on.

Tensions are high between the civilian government, which has ruled since elections in February 2008, and the military and intelligence services, after US forces killed Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad in May. The army was not told about the raid in advance.

In his comments last week, Mr Gilani voiced unprecedented criticism of the military, saying: "There can't be a state within the state. They have to be answerable to this parliament."

However he did not name any of the alleged conspirators.

The latest developments come amid a scandal dubbed "memogate" that has forced the resignation of the Pakistani ambassador to the US and piled pressure on President Zardari and the civilian authorities.

Some observers have speculated that the "memogate" affair is a conspiracy by the army to embarrass the government.

The military is the strongest institution in Pakistan and has staged three coups.

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