ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s army on Saturday rejected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s decision to sack an adviser over his connections to a reporter who wrote an article last year saying there is a rift between civilian and military leaders over efforts to combat militancy.
Saturday’s strong reaction from the army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor came shortly after Sharif’s office ordered the firing of Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs Syed Tariq Fatemi, without specifying his role in the DAWN newspaper article about a conflict between the military and his government — a sign of escalating tension between the army and the government.
In a tweet, Ghafoor said the notification from the office of the prime minister was “incomplete” and “it was not in line with recommendations” made by an inquiry board that was set up to determine who leaked information to journalist Cyril Almeida about a security meeting.
Shortly after the army’s response, Sharif addressed two rallies in the cities of Sargodha and Okara in Punjab province but made no mention of the army’s tweet. Sharif said he would not resign, in response to opposition leader Imran Khan’s call for him to step down over alleged corruption.
The latest disagreement dates back to last year when Almeida, in a front page article, claimed civil authorities had asked the Inter-Service Intelligence spy agency to act against militants or face international isolation.
“In a blunt, orchestrated and unprecedented warning, the civilian government has informed the military leadership of a growing international isolation of Pakistan and sought consensus on several key actions by the state,” Almeida wrote at the time in his article. Sharif’s government quickly rejected his report, saying it was false and fabricated.
Sharif’s office in Saturday’s notification said the premier referred Almeida and editor Zafar Abbas to a body of newspaper owners to consider disciplinary action against them. Sharif also ordered action against Rao Tehsin, an official at the Ministry of Information. The notification did not specify Fatemi and Tehsin’s role in the issue, but the military said it has “rejected” the notification.
Sharif has already fired his information minister over the issue.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, expressed his displeasure over Ghafoor’s tweet, saying state “institutions don’t talk to each other by tweets.”
In a televised news conference Saturday, Khan termed Ghafoor’s tweet “unfortunate” and vowed to take action against those behind the publication of Almeida’s report.
He told reporters in Karachi that Sharif was in line with the inquiry board’s recommendations, and that Almeida wants to create mistrust between the army and Pakistan’s civilian leadership.
Civil-military relations are a sensitive issue in Pakistan, given the country’s history of military coups.