The prime minister of Pakistan has accused the country’s powerful spy agency of behaving like a “state within the state” and alleged there is a conspiracy to dislodge his coalition government.
Pakistan’s powerful army institution, particularly its spy agency, the ISI, has long been accused of destabilizing the country's civilian governments to pave the way for military coups.
Critics frequently refer to the ISI, which they also accuse of harboring militant groups, as a state within the state. But no Pakistani civilian government has ever dared to confront it for fear of losing power.
However, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani crossed that bridge on Thursday, raising tensions between his coalition government and country's military.
Hours after alleging there is a conspiracy to oust his government, Gilani told the national parliament that the military must operate under the control of the government.
“There can’t be a state within the state," said Gilani. "They have to be answerable to this parliament. All the institutions of this country, they are answerable to this parliament and nobody is above law."
Gilani’s criticism is likely to worsen tensions between his increasingly unpopular government and the military. The strained relations stem from a secret presidential memo allegedly asking Washington for help in preventing a military coup following the U.S. raid earlier this year that killed Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani garrison city.
The existence of the document came to light in October when Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz wrote a column in the Financial Times newspaper accusing Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S., Hussain Haqqani, of writing the memo and requesting that it be delivered to Admiral Mike Mullen, the top U.S. military official at the time. Haqqani was subsequently forced to resign as ambassador.
The government has rejected links to the memo, calling it a non-issue. However, the army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and Lieutenant-General Shuja Pasha, the head of the spy agency, both insist the memo is real and have urged the Supreme Court to investigate the matter.
But Prime Minister Gilani counter-attacked in his speech to parliament Thursday, criticizing the military for failing to track down the world’s most wanted man hiding right under its nose.