ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan’s prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani on Monday denied domestic media reports he was planning to sack the powerful army and intelligence chiefs, saying the military supported democracy.
The reports about army chief General Ashfaq Kayani and the Director-General of Inter-Services Intelligence (DG-ISI), Lieutenant-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, were the latest in what has been feverish press speculation about a rift between civilian politicians and the military.
“As far as the rumors that the government wants to remove the DG-ISI and General Kayani, this impression is simply a fools’ talk,” Gilani told reporters in comments broadcast on television.
“It is wrong to spread such talk. If this was the case, I wouldn’t have given them extensions.... I am happy with his (army chief’s) work and I want to dispel this impression.”
The government last year extended Kayani’s term of office to 2013, while Pasha’s term was extended to March 2012.
Speculation of a rift between the civilian government and the army follows publication of an unsigned memo seeking Washington’s help to rein in the military after U.S. forces found and killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May.
Pakistan’s then ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, has been accused of writing the memo on behalf of the government. He denies involvement but has resigned pending an investigation.
The army, which ruled Pakistan for almost half of its 64-year history, said last week it was not planning to take over after a spate of rumors it might move against President Asif Ali Zardari.
Gilani said Kayani was pro-democracy, and he was not willing to remove him when the country was in the middle of a war.
The Supreme Court is looking into a petition demanding an inquiry into what has become known as “memogate.” Kayani has called for an investigation into the memo.
Editing by Myra MacDonald