Islamabad: An Pakistani Army officer taking command of a brigade was enough to fuel coup rumors as the formation had in the past been used to secure Islamabad during a military take over.
The news of Brigadier Sarfraz Ali assuming command of the 111 Brigade came amid a showdown between the political leadership and the powerful military.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani asserted his authority by dismissing Naeem Khalid Lodhi, a retired lieutenant general widely seen to be close to army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
Pakistan’s army warned that the prime minister’s “critical comments” of the military would have “serious ramifications” with “potentially grievous consequences for the country”.
Gilani has accused the army chief and the ISI chief, Lieutenant General Shuja Pasha of violating the constitution by submitting illegal replies to the Supreme Court on a memo sent to Washington that said President Asif Ali Zardari had feared a military take over following last year’s killing of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
The Inter-Services Public Relations confirmed Wednesday that Brigadier Sarfraz Ali had taken over command of the 111 Brigade.
It, however, was quick to add that the posting was “routine”.
The 111 Brigade is has been frequently involved in military coup d’etats, The News International reported.
It said that the outgoing commander, Brigadier Javed, was promoted to major general several weeks ago and posted as a division commander in Lahore.
The 111 Brigade is part of the Rawalpindi Corps and is equipped to carry out special operations, the media report said.
“The change does not mean anything as both the outgoing and incoming military officers are under military discipline and cannot do anything without the consent/approval of the General Headquarters,” a former military officer was quoted as saying.
Pakistan has been ruled a string of military strongmen, the last of whom was General Pervez Musharraf. Having grabbed power in a bloodless coup in October 1999, Musharraf ruled as chief executive 1999-2001 and as president 2001-08.