The Starting Point
On 10th of January 2012 Mr Gilani was quoted telling China’s People’s Daily Online that Pakistan’s army chief and head of intelligence acted unconstitutionally by making submissions to a Supreme Court inquiry which has been rocking the government.
Tensions between the government and the military reached a peak last week after Gilani said the army and intelligence chiefs had acted in an “unconstitutional and illegal” manner by filing affidavits on the memo issue in the Supreme Court without getting the government’s approval.
Response to the Situation
Pakistan’s military warned Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani of “grievous consequences” over his claims that the army failed to follow proper procedure regarding a probe into a memo allegedly seeking US help to curb army powers.
Pakistan’s army on 12th January 2012 warned of “grievous consequences” for the country over criticism by the prime minister that has ramped up tensions between the military and civilian leadership.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani immediately sacked the top bureaucrat in the defence ministry over the row, with the government saying the official had been the cause of the “misunderstanding” with the military.
The spat centres on a Supreme Court inquiry set up to investigate a controversial unsigned memo allegedly delivered to the US military seeking its help in curbing Pakistan’s highly powerful armed forces in May 2011.
Gilani earlier January 1st week accused the army and intelligence chiefs of failing to make their submissions to the commission through government channels, in an unusually bold interview with Chinese media.
The army issued a statement vociferously denying Gilani’s accusation and saying it had passed its response through the defence ministry to the court in accordance with the law.
“There can be no allegation more serious than what the honourable prime minister has levelled against COAS (army chief General Ashfaq Kayani) and DG ISI (spy chief Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha) and has unfortunately charged the officers for violation of the constitution of the country,” said the army’s statement.
“This has very serious ramifications with potentially grievous consequences for the country.”
Army makes it known commanders are furious with Prime Minister of Pakistan
The dependable international news agency Reuters said on 14th January 2012 the Pakistan’s army chief ‘is furious with the prime minister for statements criticising the army and has demanded that they be clarified or withdrawn’. “The army chief complained to the president about the prime minister’s statements, and said they needed to be either clarified or withdrawn,” a source told Reuters. The senior military source told Reuters ‘such statements were divisive and made the country more vulnerable’. As angry as Kayani is, the source said, the council of senior military commanders is even more angry.
The report said: “That tension has raised fears for the stability of the nuclear-armed country and exposed a struggle between the government and the military, which has ousted three civilian governments in coups since independence in 1947 and has ruled the nation for more than half of its history”.
There are no signs yet that a coup is being seriously considered, however, reflecting the changed political calculations in Pakistan since civilians took power in 2008.
Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani criticised General Kayani and the director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence, Lieutenant-General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, for filing court papers in a case involving a mysterious memo that has pitted the military against the civilian government.
Pakistanis rallied behind the military after a November 26, 2011 cross-border Nato air attack killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on the frontier with Afghanistan, driving ties with Washington to their lowest point in years.
The army’s fury is cause for serious concern for the civilian government, and Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari went on a charm offensive on 14th January 2012.
Earlier, Zardari met Kayani in a similar attempt to mend fences. “The current security situation was discussed,” a presidential spokesman said, without giving any details.
Pakistan’s politicians and media pundits have been abuzz with rumours of a possible coup since the memo controversy erupted in October. The disputed memo – allegedly from Zardari’s government, seeking US help in reining in the generals – has pushed relations between the civilian leadership and the military, to their lowest point since the last military coup in 1999.
The latest crisis also troubles Washington, which wants smooth ties between the civilian and military leaders so that Pakistan can help efforts to stabilise neighbouring Afghanistan, a top priority for President Barack Obama.
The Prime Minister’s Response
Pakistan’s prime minister on 15th of January rejected a demand by the country’s powerful army chief that he clarify or retract his criticism of the army and the spy agency last week, likely raising tensions further in a festering row with the military.
“The prime minister … is answerable to parliament,” Yusuf Raza Gilani told reporters in the central city of Vehari. “I will not answer to a person. I am answerable to parliament.”
Recent tension has raised fears for the stability of the nuclear-armed country and exposed a struggle between the government and the military, which has ousted three civilian governments in coups since independence in 1947 and has ruled the nation for more than half of its history.
The memo, allegedly drafted on the direction of former ambassador to Washington Husain Haqqani, asked for U.S. help in reining in the army, which the memo said was planning a coup.
When an American businessman revealed his role in writing and delivering the memo, the army was enraged. Haqqani was forced to resign, and “memogate” has locked President Asif Ali Zardari and the military in trench warfare ever since.
Gilani’s comments were in response to a journalist’s question about media reports 14th January 2012 night that Kayani was infuriated by Gilani’s criticisms.
The army chief complained to Zardari and demanded that Gilani’s comments be clarified or withdrawn, a military source told Reuters on 14th January 2012.
Gilani, however, showed no signs of backing down. “What I said was not an accusation,” he told reporters. “We want there to be respect for the constitution, rule of law, and all institutions to work within their limits. I said just one thing, that rules and procedures were not followed. And that was the defence secretary’s fault, for which we removed him from his post.”
He further quoted the following
“I will not answer to any individual as I am answerable to parliament,”
“I am definitely answerable as Article 91 of the Constitution states the Prime Minister, ministers and ministers of state are answerable to parliament. If anyone has any complaints, I will not answer to any individual as I am answerable to parliament,”
“Whenever parliament wants, I can present my viewpoint before parliament,”
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