U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the Obama administration is backing Pakistan's civilian leaders amid growing tension between the government and the military. Pakistan's Supreme Court is investigating a government memo that allegedly sought U.S. help to prevent a military coup.
Secretary Clinton says Washington is expressing “a lot of concerns” about what it sees happening inside Pakistan.
“It has been our position to stand strongly in favor of a democratically-elected civilian government, which we continue to do," said Clinton. "And we expect Pakistan to resolve any of these internal issues in a just and transparent manner that upholds the Pakistan laws and constitution.”
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani fired Defense Secretary Naeem Khalid Lodhi on Wednesday and accused the army chief and the head of intelligence services of acting unlawfully by submitting statements to the Supreme Court inquiry into a controversial memo.
Pakistan's military responded by warning that Mr. Gilani's comments have "very serious ramifications with potentially grievous consequences for the country."
A Supreme Court-appointed panel is investigating the origins of the unsigned memo, in which Pakistan's civilian government asked for U.S. help in reining in the Pakistani military, following the U.S. raid last May that killed Osama bin Laden.
The existence of the memo surfaced in October when a Pakistani-American businessman accused the then-Pakistani Ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, of writing the memo. Haqqani denies he wrote the document and has since resigned.
U.S. military officials confirm the top U.S. military officer at the time, Admiral Mike Mullen, received the memo, but did not find it credible.
U.S.-Pakistani relations already strained by the raid that killed the al-Qaida leader worsened when 24 Pakistani troops were killed in a NATO air strike in November.
Secretary Clinton says the Obama administration recognizes that there have been “significant challenges” in recent months, but Washington is steadfastly committed to a productive relationship with Islamabad.
“The U.S.-Pakistan relationship is crucial to both of our countries, to the future of our people, to the safety and security of South Asia and the world," she said.
Pakistan's military has ruled the country for much of its existence. No civilian government has completed its term in office.