ISLAMABAD (Agencies) - The government has issued a show-cause notice to the defence secretary for submitting an affidavit on the memo scandal to the Supreme Court without seeking approval from the defence minister.

Lt-Gen (r) Naeem Khalid Lodhi, considered to be very close to Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, was issued the notice last week, official sources said. The PPP-led federal government is at loggerheads with the army on the memo affair but party insiders said on Monday that Lodhi was unlikely to be sacked as the government wanted to avert any open confrontation.

The sources said Prime Minister Gilani’s sharp criticism of the army on Thursday was triggered by Lodhi’s refusal to obey a directive from his government. Lodhi initially angered PPP’s top leadership when he submitted an affidavit in the SC on Dec 21 stating that the defence ministry had ‘no operational control’ over the army and the ISI. Sources said Lodhi submitted the affidavit without getting it cleared by Defence Minister Ch Ahmed Mukhtar. The following day, Gilani issued a directive that Lodhi should submit a fresh affidavit that was more in line with the government’s stance but the defence secretary refused to obey, officials of the PPP and other sources confirmed.

Lodhi’s stand angered top PPP leaders, who believed it went against Gilani’s remarks that all state institutions, including the army, were on the ‘same page’ on key national issues. PPP officials said Lodhi’s affidavit bolstered the impression of serious divisions between the civilian government and military on the memo scandal and whipped up rumours about an imminent clash between the two institutions.

It was after Lodhi refused to obey the government’s directive that Gilani strongly criticised the military in two separate speeches on Dec 22. Addressing a gathering of students, the premier spoke of ‘intrigues and conspiracies’ being hatched to ‘pack up’ his government. Speaking in Parliament, Gilani said it was unacceptable for the army to function as a ‘state within a state’ and questioned the military’s failure to detect Osama bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan for six years.

General Kayani responded to Gilani’s allegations by dispelling talk of a military takeover. He contended that such speculation was an attempt to divert focus from ‘real issues’.