ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's prime minister has sacked the defense secretary, his office said Wednesday, in a move likely to ratchet up tension with the country's powerful military.
The decision comes during intense friction between the civilian government and the powerful military over an unsigned memo that sought U.S. help in reining in Pakistan's generals.
Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani's office said in a statement that retired Lieutenant General Naeem Khalid Lodhi was fired for "gross misconduct and illegal action which created misunderstanding" between state institutions.
Distrust between civilian leaders and the generals has bedeviled the nuclear-armed South Asian country for almost its entire existence, with the military ruling for more than half of its 64-year history after a series of coups.
A senior military official said the latest tension was "very serious."
In December, President Asif Ali Zardari flew to Dubai for medical treatment sparking rumors that he had fled the country anticipating a coup.
Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani last month dismissed coup rumors as speculation and said the army supported democracy. Zardari returned after about two weeks.
(Reporting by Sheree Sardar; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Robert Birsel)