Pakistani PM: ‘Conspirators’ Working to Undermine Government

Posted December 22nd, 2011 at 2:15 pm (UTC-5)
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Pakistan's prime minister said Thursday that conspirators are attempting to undermine his government, as it faces mounting criticism over a secret memo to the U.S. appealing for help in preventing a military coup.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani made his comments as Pakistan's Supreme Court convened a hearing on the memo and demanded a reply from President Asif Ali Zardari.

The memo, allegedly sent in May by a member of President Zardari's office, asked for U.S. military assistance to thwart a possible coup by the country's powerful military and intelligence services following the covert U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil.

The existence of the memo came to light in October, when Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz wrote a column in the Financial Times newspaper accusing Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S., Hussain Haqqani, of writing the memo and asking for it to be delivered to Admiral Mike Mullen, the top U.S. military official at the time. Haqqani was subsequently forced to resign.

Prime Minister Gilani and President Zardari have faced increasing pressure to resign over the memo scandal. Mr. Gilani said Thursday that “conspiracies” were being plotted to “pack up the elected government,” though he did not say who he thought was behind them. Mr. Gilani said he will “continue to fight for the rights of the Pakistani people,” whether or not his civilian government remains in power.

Speaking to Pakistan's parliament later Thursday, Prime Minister Gilani insisted that the military must operate under the control of the civilian government. He said there cannot be “a state within the state” and that all the country's institutions are “answerable to this parliament.”

The scandal has heightened tensions between Pakistan's government and its military leaders, who have said it is endangering national security. But Mr. Gilani on Thursday indirectly criticized the military and its intelligence agency, the ISI, asking how Osama bin Laden was able to enter the country and live there undetected for six years.

Bin Laden was killed in a secret U.S. raid in the Pakistani garrison city of Abbottabad on May 2. He had reportedly been living there for several years, just meters from a key Pakistani military base. The raid outraged Pakistan's army, which says it was not consulted before the raid was carried out.

Earlier this week, Mr. Gilani dismissed rumors of a rift between the government and the military, saying Pakistan's government and its institutions “remain committed to their constitutional roles and obligations to a democratic and prosperous future for Pakistan.”

The Reuters news agency on Thursday quoted unnamed Pakistani military sources as saying that the military wants President Zadari out of office, but through legal means, not a coup.