Pakistan's government fired the defense secretary today and the army warned of "grievous consequences" for the country, escalating a political and legal crisis that some believe could end in the dismissal of the government. Retired Lt. Gen. Naeem Khalid Lodhi, an army loyalist seen as a bridge between the generals and the civilian government, was dismissed for "gross misconduct and illegal action" and replaced with a bureaucrat close to Prime Minister Yousuf Reza Gilani.
Relations between President Asif Ali Zardari and the generals have never been good, but have soured dramatically in recent months over a memo sent to Washington asking for its help in reining in the power of the military. The memo, allegedly masterminded by Pakistan's then envoy to Washington, outraged the army, which portrayed it as a threat to national security and triggered a Supreme Court inquiry. An aide to Gilani said Lodhi was fired because of his role in submitting to the court the statements of two top generals declaring the memo a conspiracy against the army. "I think the lines have been drawn, now it depends on who fires the next shot," says a political science professor. "It is a three dimensional war: the judiciary, the political executive, and the armed forces."