Pakistani prime minister, defense chiefs to meet over U.S. airstrike

Pakistani PM Yousuf Raza Gilani, left, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai meet at a conference in Islamabad in May 2009.

Story highlights

  • Pakistan's prime minister is gathering the Cabinet's defense committee
  • Committee will respond to U.S. investigation into deadly drone strike, official says
  • Pakistan's government has disputed the findings of a U.S. investigation
Pakistan's prime minister is gathering the nation's top defense leaders together to respond to findings of a U.S. investigation into an airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, a spokesman said Friday.
The meeting set for Saturday is the first gathering of the Cabinet's defense committee since Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani fired his defense secretary, a move that spiked tensions between the civilian government and its military.
All Pakistani military service chiefs will attend the meeting, including the chief of the army, as well as the ministers of interior, defense and information, said Muhammed Akram Shaheedi, the prime minister's spokesman.
Results of the U.S. investigation, which were released last month, found that its forces acted in self-defense on November 26 after being fired upon in Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border.
Pakistan's government has formally disputed the findings of the U.S. investigation, saying the bombardment went on long after it reported its troops were under fire.
The meeting also follows reports the United States launched its first drone strike this week in more than a month, targeting suspected militants in Pakistan's volatile tribal region that borders Afghanistan.
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The drone fired two missiles Tuesday at a suspected militant compound near the provincial capital of Miranshah in North Waziristan.
Pakistan did not authorize the recent drone strike nor has it ever granted such permission to the United States, said Abdul Basit, a spokesman for the Pakistani foreign ministry.
The meeting Saturday also provides Gilani with an opportunity to dial back tensions with his defense chiefs, which escalated after he fired Naeem Khalid Lodhi for what state media reported was "gross misconduct and illegal action."
The firing followed a warning of "grievous consequences" by Pakistan's military, which made the threat in a statement following 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.
The latest tension comes as Pakistan's Supreme Court investigates a controversial, unsigned memo allegedly drafted by the civilian leadership in which it asked the United States to help rein in the nation's powerful 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.