“Nobody can say they are not under the government”

Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, in an unprecedented tongue-lashing against the powerful military, said on Thursday that it was “unacceptable” if the Army “considers itself a state within state” and warned that “conspiracies” were being hatched to “pack up” his government.

Mr. Gilani strongly criticised the Army for failing to detect al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's presence in the country and said the government firmly stood with the institutions and fully protected them after the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Addressing an official function organised to commemorate the birth anniversary of Pakistan's founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Mr. Gilani said, “I want to make it clear today that there are intrigues and conspiracies going on and the conspiracy is to pack up the elected government.”

“I want to tell them that whether we are in government or Opposition or among the people, we will fight for the rights of the people of Pakistan,” he said.

“People will have to decide whether they want elected people or a dictatorship,” he added as talk of a rift between his government and the military gathers pace.

“Nobody can say they are not under the government. Every institution of this country, including the Ministry of Defence, is under the Prime Minister.

“They are under the government and will remain under the government because we are the elected, chosen representatives of the people of Pakistan.”

Speaking later in the National Assembly or lower House of Parliament, Mr. Gilani further criticised the security establishment.

Tensions over Memogate

The Prime Minister's unusual remarks came in the backdrop of tensions between the civilian government and the military over the Memogate scandal.

Responding to a point of order of Leader of the Opposition Choudhary Nisar Ali Khan regarding the reply of the Defence Ministry to the Supreme Court that the Army and the ISI were not subordinate to the Ministry, the Prime Minister said, “If the Army considers itself a state within state, then it is unacceptable,” Pakistan's state-run APP news agency reported.

“If they [Army] say that they are not under the Ministry of Defence, then we should get out of this slavery, then this Parliament has no importance, this system has no importance, then you are not sovereign,” he said.