Pakistan leaders hold talks with army chief

President and PM meet with General Ashfaq Kayani amid report that head of army is furious at criticism of his forces.

akistan''s Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani (R) talking with President Asif Ali Zardari
Kayani is reported to be furious with the prime minister for his statements criticising the army [EPA]

Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s president, has met with the country’s powerful army chief in a bid to ease tensions after weeks of frosty civilian-military relations that threaten the stability of the nuclear-armed nation.

A presidential spokesman said Zardari and General Ashfaq Kayani discussed “the current security situation” on Saturday without giving further details. 

On Friday, with his government at risk of dissolution and in a veiled criticism of the army, Yusuf Raza Gilani, the prime minister, called on parliament to choose between democracy and dictatorship.

Quoting a senior military source, the Reuters news agency reported on Saturday that Kayani is furious with the prime minister for his statements criticising the army, and that they should be either clarified or withdrawn.

“The army chief complained to the president about the prime minister’s statements, and said they needed to be either
clarified or withdrawn,” the source told Reuters.

“He said such statements were divisive and made the country more vulnerable.” 

Following his talks with the president, Kayani met with Gilani and his cabinet’s defence committee.

Attempting to strike a conciliatory tone with Kayani, Gilani said: “Our government and parliament, and above all our patriotic people, have stood fully behind our brave armed forces and security personnel.

“It has been my government’s policy to allow and enable all state institutions to play their role in their respective

Friday’s appeal by Gilani comes amid the fallout of last year’s memogate scandal, in which an unsigned memorandum, said to be from Zardari and addressed to Admiral Mike Mullen, then chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, called on the Obama administration to thwart a military takeover of the civilian government.

‘Democracy or dictatorship’ 

Seeking support from their coalition partners, members of Gilani’s ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), taking part in an emergency parliamentary session on Friday, introduced a resolution to endorse democracy.

The resolution, to be debated in the lower house on Monday, expressed “full confidence and trust” in the current civilian government.

“It must be decided whether there will be democracy in the country or dictatorship,” Gilani said of the confidence vote.

The resolution also calls for all state institutions to operate within the bounds of the nation’s constitution, a statement believed to be an affront to the nation’s powerful military, which has been accused of interfering in the nation’s political matters.

The apparent provocation was the US raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda chief, in May.

Zardari trip

Gilani’s address came on the day that Zardari returned from an overnight trip to Dubai.

Zardari’s second trip to the Gulf state in as many months led to renewed speculation that he was fleeing before he could be toppled by the nation’s powerful military.

Monday is also when a full 17-member supreme court decision is due on the government’s response to a six-point “do-or-die” ultimatum given to the government to reopen old corruption cases against Zardari and others.

The corruption cases were originally stopped after the 2007 National Reconciliation Ordinance, a corruption amnesty issued by the government of Pervez Musharraf, the former president.

The possible outcomes of the court’s decision has led to new talks of a “constitutional coup,” rather than a military one, in which the supreme court would pursue a course of action that would lead to the government’s removal.

Source: News Agencies