Pakistan minister quits after making overthrow plot claims

AP News
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Posted: Aug 15, 2015 2:07 PM

ISLAMABAD (AP) — A Pakistani Cabinet minister resigned from his post on Saturday after claiming in an interview that the country's former spy master Gen. Zaheerul Islam wanted to overthrow Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif through violent rallies in Islamabad last year.

The government received the letter of resignation from Mushahidullah Khan, a senior leader of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N party, Information Minister Pervez Rashid said, but it was not clear if Sharif would accept it.

Khan's resignation came after he told the BBC in an interview aired Friday that Islam, head of the military's powerful spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence, was behind last year's anti-government rallies organized by cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan and fiery cleric Tahir-ul-Qadr.

Three people were killed and more than 500 wounded in the protests from August to December 2014.

Hasan Askari Rizvi, an independent political analyst in Lahore, said hawks in Sharif's government have at times voiced criticism of the Pakistani military. He said Sharif's government and party seem worried about a possible move by the military to unearth corruption in its power base of Punjab province, following crackdowns in Sindh province against other parties and prominent politicians.

Mushahidullah Khan, Sharif's minister for climate change, claimed a civil intelligence agency intercepted a call from Islam during last year's protest where the former spy chief was heard calling for violent protests.

Army spokesman Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa rejected the allegation. "Such rumors are irresponsible and unprofessional," he said in a tweet Friday.

Calls to Mushahidullah Khan's cell phone rang unanswered Saturday.

Sharif is serving his third term as prime minister. During his previous two terms, his government was dismissed following differences with the military.

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Associated Press writer Zarar Khan contributed to this report.