Pakistan Army Rift With Gilani Escalates After Sacking, Coup Allegations

Pakistan’s army warned of “grievous consequences” after the Prime Minister accused it of violating the constitution, and the government sacked the defense secretary in the latest signs of escalating tensions between the military and the country’s elected leadership.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani criticized the army in a Jan. 9 interview for overstepping its authority in directly submitting to the Supreme Court its response to claims the government sought U.S. help to stop a possible coup. The showdown comes hours after Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari summoned parliament to garner support following a top court declaration yesterday that the prime minister had violated his oath of office by refusing to pursue corruption charges against the president.

“There can be no allegation more serious than what the honorable prime minister has leveled,” a statement on the military’s website said today. “This has very serious ramifications with potentially grievous consequences for the country.”

The political upheaval in the nuclear-armed nation threatens to complicate U.S. plans to bolster security in the region as it withdraws troops from neighboring Afghanistan. It may also hamper efforts to revive Pakistan’s economy that grew 2.4 percent in the year ended June 30, one of its slowest expansions in a decade.

Shortly after the military issued its statement, Gilani’s spokesman said the premier had fired the country’s defense secretary, retired Lieutenant General Naeem Khalid Lodhi, for misconduct.

Zardari and Gilani convened leaders of their Pakistan People’s Party and its allies yesterday after the Supreme Court decision on the graft cases. A separate judicial commission is investigating whether Zardari and his ambassador to the U.S. authorized a memo in May that sought American pressure against a feared military coup following the killing of Osama bin Laden.

To contact the reporters on this story: Haris Anwar in Islamabad at hanwar2@bloomberg.net; James Rupert in New Delhi at jrupert3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net

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