By CNN Wire Staff
UK and Pakistani officials on Friday denied a news report that Pakistan's prime minister contacted the British High Commission in a "panicky" phone call to express fears that a military coup was imminent in his country.
In a story published Friday citing anonymous sources, the Associated Press reported that the Prime Minister Yousuf Reza Gilani asked High Commissioner Adam Thomson for "Britain to support his embattled government." Whether Britain took any action was unclear, AP reported.
"This is absolutely an incorrect report; the prime minister hasn't spoken to the high commissioner of UK on this subject," Gilani spokesman Akram Shaheedi told CNN Friday. "Democratic government led by the prime minister derives its strength from the people of Pakistan - not from any foreign power."
The spokesman for the High Commission also said the call never took place and that the commission asked AP to print a retraction.
AP spokesman Paul Colford told CNN that the news agency had received no request from the High Commission for a retraction.
The developments came as tensions between Pakistan's civilian government and its all-powerful military continued to widen. Gilani fired his defense secretary Wednesday, a move that spiked tensions.
The prime minister's spokesman confirmed to CNN the firing of Naeem Khalid Lodhi. Pakistani media reported that it was for "gross misconduct and illegal action."
The move came after Pakistan's military issued a statement warning of "grievous consequences" from a Gilani interview in The People's Daily Online of China. In it, the military said, Gilani accused the army's chief of staff and the head of the Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency of violating the constitution.
"There can be no allegation more serious than what the honorable prime minister has leveled," the statement said. "This has very serious ramifications with potentially grievous consequences for the country."
Meanwhile, Pakistan's Supreme Court is investigating a controversial, unsigned memo allegedly drafted by the civilian leadership in which it asked the United States to help rein in the military.
The so-called Memogate scandal has unleashed waves of political intrigue in recent weeks, and the media has described a government on a collision course with its own army.
Last month, Gilani spoke provocatively of plots to topple the government.
Later, he accepted an army statement pledging support for the democratic process.
"We have been trying to remain on the same page (with the military) for the last four years," Gilani said in an attempt to temper his comments.
In its 64 years of existence, Pakistan has had to balance its civilian and military leadership. Pakistanis have lived through three military coups and decades of military dictatorship.
Memogate, wrote businessman Mansoor Ijaz, whose column in October touched off the scandal, publicly exposed the tensions.
A series of events have also added to the furor.
The U.S. killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden during a May raid on a compound located only about a mile from the Pakistan Military Academy in Abbottabad enraged the Pakistani public and deeply embarrassed the military.
Relations became even more strained in November, after NATO forces said they mistakenly killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers in airstrikes near the Afghan border - an attack the United States insists was an act of self-defense after its troops were fired upon.
Pakistan's government has formally disputed the findings of the U.S. investigation into the airstrike, saying the bombardment went on long after it reported its troops were under fire.
The United States launched its first drone attack in Pakistan Tuesday after more than a month-long lull, killing at least four suspected militants, CNN confirmed.
The drone fired two missiles Tuesday at a suspected militant compound near the provincial capital of Miranshah in the North Waziristan region, located in the country's volatile tribal belt that borders Afghanistan.
Abdul Basit, spokesman for Pakistan's Foreign Ministry, told CNN Wednesday that Pakistan did not allow for Tuesday's strike nor has it ever granted such permission to the United States.
"We have strong reservations on the drone strikes because this is a violation of our sovereignty. We can't accept violation of our sovereignty."