Dec. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Pakistan’s military denied that it’s plotting to stage a coup, a day after the nation’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani warned that there is a conspiracy to remove his government.
Pakistan’s “army has and will continue to support democratic process in the country,” military chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani told soldiers in a question and answer session in the northwest tribal region today, according to a statement issued by the army. These rumors “are misleading and are being used as a bogey to divert the focus from the real issues,” Kayani said.
Gilani warned yesterday of a conspiracy to remove his elected administration, his second such warning in a week amid heightened tensions between civilian and military leaders.
“I want to tell you clearly that conspiracies are under way to remove this elected government,” Gilani said at a youth gathering in Islamabad. “Now people have to decide whether you want elected people or dictatorship.”
Pakistan’s Supreme Court, backed by military chiefs and the principal opposition party, is investigating claims that President Asif Ali Zardari’s envoy to the U.S. sought American help to prevent a possible coup following the killing of Osama bin Laden in May, an account that widened a rift between Gilani’s administration and the army.
The court’s probe into a memo requesting U.S. assistance was triggered by opposition leader Nawaz Sharif and has been supported by Kayani. Gilani’s government opposed the investigation on the grounds that it has already announced a parliamentary inquiry.
“Irrespective of all other considerations, there can be no compromise on national security,” Kayani told soldiers, according to the statement posted on the army’s website.
In a sign that Gilani’s government is willing to challenge the generals, he said yesterday that his government won’t tolerate “a state within a state” and that institutions must accept parliament’s supremacy. Pakistan has been ruled by the army for more than half of the 64 years since independence.
Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz has said he helped Pakistan’s then ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani, send a May plea for U.S. pressure against Pakistan’s military, as the army stood humiliated for failing to detect or halt the U.S. raid that killed bin Laden.
Haqqani, who was dismissed over the issue, and the government deny involvement. Haqqani served as a Zardari adviser and in the 1990s as spokesman to his wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Haqqani’s wife, Farahnaz Ispahani, is a spokeswoman for Zardari.
--Editors: Mark Williams, Abhay Singh
To contact the reporter on this story: Haris Anwar in Islamabad at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at email@example.com