Islamabad/Lahore, Dec 26: At loggerheads with the powerful Army, the Pakistan government has issued a showcause notice to the Defence Secretary for submitting an affidavit on the memo scandal to the Supreme Court without seeking approval from the Defence Minister.
Lt Gen (retired) Khalid Naeem Lodhi considered to be very close to army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, was issued the notice last week, official sources said.
However, insiders in the ruling Pakistan People's Party told PTI today that Lodhi was unlikely to be sacked as the government wanted to avert any confrontation with the powerful military.
The PPP insiders further said Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's sharp criticism of the Pakistan Army on Thursday was triggered by Lodhi's refusal to obey a directive from the government.
Lodhi initially angered PPP's top leadership when he submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court on December 21 that stated the Defence Ministry had “no operational control” over the army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
Sources said Lodhi submitted the affidavit without getting it cleared by Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar.
The following day, Gilani issued a directive that Lodhi should submit a fresh affidavit that was more in line with the government's stance but the Defence Secretary refused to obey, officials of the PPP and other sources confirmed.
Lodhi's stand angered top PPP leaders, who believed it went against Gilani's remarks that all state institutions, including the army, were on the “same page” on key national issues.
PPP officials said Lodhi's affidavit bolstered the impression of serious divisions between the civilian government and military on the Memo scandal and whipped up rumours about an imminent clash between the two institutions.
It was after Lodhi refused to obey the government's directive that Gilani strongly criticised the military in two separate speeches on December 22.
Addressing a gathering of students, the premier spoke of “intrigues and conspiracies” being hatched to “pack up” his government.
Speaking in parliament, Gilani said it was unacceptable for the army to function as a “state within a state” and questioned the military's failure to detect Osama bin Laden's presence in Pakistan for six years.
Gen Kayani responded to Gilani's allegations by dispelling talk of a military takeover. He contended that such speculation was an attempt to divert focus from “real issues” - an apparent reference to the alleged memo that sought US help to stave off a feared coup in Pakistan after the killing of Osama bin Laden in May.
The army and the government have adopted divergent stands on the memo in the Supreme Court, which is examining several petitions seeking a probe into the matter.
The army and ISI chiefs have urged the court to order a probe into the scandal, saying it undermined national security.
On the other hand, the government has challenged the court's jurisdiction to hear the petitions, saying the issue is being investigated by a parliamentary committee.
With the military continuing to pressure President Asif Ali Zardari over the issue, Gilani acknowledged over the weekend that there was no immediate plan to change the Defence Secretary though he had been issued a showcause notice.
“The government does not intend to condemn anybody unheard,” Gilani told reporters.
Gilani has sought to give the impression that his government and the military were on the same page with regard to the Memogate case in the Supreme Court.
However, PPP insiders pointed out that the chiefs of the army and ISI and the Defence Secretary had ignored the government's request to submit their affidavits to the court through the Prime Minister's Office and the Law Ministry.