Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Pakistan's Growing Civilian-Military Showdown (+Video)

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Pakistan's Growing Civilian-Military Showdown (+Video)

Article excerpt

Pakistan has avoided another military coup - so far - but tensions are rising between Prime Minister Gilani and the military establishment.

Pakistan's civilian government fired its Defense Secretary Wednesday in a rare show of defiance against the country's powerful Army, which had earlier publicly rebuked Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and ignited speculation the government may fall.

Retired Lt. Gen. Naeem Khalid Lodhi, a senior bureaucrat seen as close to the Army, was dismissed by the government for "gross misconduct and illegal action." He was replaced by a bureaucrat close to the prime minister.

It's not yet clear whether Pakistan's powerful Army will be sufficiently moved to launch a coup and directly rule the country as it has done for approximately half of Pakistan's 65 year history. But if Mr. Gilani's defiance pays off, that could indicate a boost for the country's democratic institutions.

"The Prime Minister issued public statements denouncing the Army which is a risky business in Pakistan and that is why the Army is annoyed. If he survives the Army pressure, this becomes an unprecedented development," says Hassan Askari-Rizwi, an analyst based in Lahore. The last civilian leader to engage in such open confrontation was former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was forced into exile following a bloodless coup led by Pervez Musharraf in 1999.

"The second unprecedented thing is the Army is also going public, denouncing the government, rather than removing the government as it has in the past," adds Dr. Askari-Rizwi. The current stand-off relates to allegations that Pakistan's government secretly asked for US help in reining in the Army and preventing a coup. The allegations are currently being probed both in parliament and by the country's Supreme Court.

Prime Minister Gilani was reported by Pakistan's state news agency to have termed written submissions by Army Chief Gen. …

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