Pakistan Army may not cooperate with new defence secretary

Indo Asian News Service

Washington, Jan 12 (IANS) Top Pakistan Army officials have said they might refuse to work with the new defence secretary a day after Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani fired Naeem Khalid Lodhi, a retired army lieutenant general, and replaced him with a civilian, the New York Times reported.

In a surprise move, Gilani Wednesday dismissed Lodhi, widely seen as close to army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and asked Cabinet Secretary Nargis Sethi to take charge of the defence secretary's post which Lodhi had held since November last year.

In sacking Lodhi, Gilani charged the former army officer with "misconduct" and taking "unlawful steps" over the memo scandal.

He said Lodhi had created "misunderstanding between the state institutions" by submitting to the Supreme Court statements of Kayani and Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence, on the memo scandal, Pakistani media reports said.

Infuriated military officials have warned of "serious ramifications with potentially grievous consequences" after Gilani publicly criticised them.

The New York Times said Pakistan's civilian governments are "typically short-lived and cast aside by military coups".

"This disastrous pattern could be repeating itself as the current civilian government comes under increasing pressure from the army and the Supreme Court."

Tensions have built steadily ever since Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's then ambassador to the US, was accused of drafting a memo that reportedly warned of a coup against President Asif Ali Zardari and sought Washington's help in preventing it.

Haqqani is now under a Supreme Court investigation but has denied writing the memo.

The New York Times said many Pakistani officials suspect the military was using the judiciary to weaken or even topple the government before the March elections to the Senate, the upper house of parliament.