Pakistani PM denies rift with army over US memo

The document sought intervention by the United States to prevent a military coup.

Powered by automated translation

ISLAMABAD // Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has dismissed rumours of a rift with the country's powerful army over a secret memo that sought US intervention to prevent a feared military coup.

Tensions between the army and government appeared to have soared in recent days as intelligence chiefs demanded an inquiry into the scandal that threatens to implicate President Asif Ali Zardari, who is abroad following an illness.

The demand came after the political opposition asked the Supreme Court to find out who was behind the memo that sought US help to prevent a coup and curb the power of the military after Osama bin Laden was killed in May.

But Gilani in a late Friday meeting at his residence with army chief Ashfaq Kayani "strongly rejected the notion", his office said in a statement.

Gilani "reiterated that the Government of Pakistan and its institutions remained committed to their constitutional roles and obligations to a democratic and prosperous future for Pakistan," it said.

"The Prime Minister and army chief underscored the significance of national unity to address the challenges faced by the nation."

In separate responses submitted to the court late Thursday, the attorney general said the petition should be dropped, but Kayani said the memo impacted "national security".

"Therefore, there may be a need to fully examine the facts and circumstances leading to the conception and issuance of the memo," the army chief said in his response, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.

The move is significant in a country where the military has staged four coups and remains the chief power broker. It may also increase uncertainty over how long Zardari remains in office.

The existence of the document came to light when American-Pakistani businessman Mansoor Ijaz wrote in the Financial Times that Zardari feared the military might overthrow his government.

Ijaz accused Husain Haqqani, the president's close aide and ambassador to Washington, of crafting the memo with Zardari's support.

Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif then filed a petition in the Supreme Court on December 1, demanding to know who was responsible for the document delivered to then US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, on May 10.

Former US general James Jones in a statement filed to the Supreme Court Saturday said he did not believe the memo he passed on to Mullen was authored by Haqqani.

"It was my assumption that the memo was written by Mr. Ijaz, since the memo essentially put into writing the language he had used in our telephone conversation earlier," Jones said in the statement filed at the request of Haqqani's lawyer.

"I do not recall whether Mr. Ijaz claimed that Ambassador Haqqani had anything to do with the creation of the memo. I have no reason to believe that Ambassador Haqqani had any role in the creation of the memo, nor that he had any prior knowledge of the memo."