Pakistan Prime Minister calls the armed forces a "pillar of the nation's resilience and strength"
The embattled Pakistan Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, appeared to reach out to the Army on Saturday, but the powerful Army Chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, is reported to have adopted a tough stance and wanted withdrawal of his statements critical of the military.
With Gen. Kayani by his side, Mr. Gilani said on Saturday that all state institutions would be allowed to play their role — a remark seen as an attempt to resolve the tense stand-off between the civilian government and the military. He described the armed forces as a “pillar of the nation's resilience and strength” and lauded their services in the defence of the country.
“It has been my government's policy to allow and enable all state institutions to play their role in their respective domains for the common good of the people. It is this desire to set good and healthy democratic traditions that has enabled us to seek strength from Parliament, which is the hallmark of a democratic government,” Mr. Gilani said at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee of Defence attended by his Ministers and top Army officials, including Gen. Kayani.
The Prime Minister's seemingly conciliatory remarks came on a day when Gen. Kayani met President Asif Ali Zardari, in the midst of a tense stand-off between the military and the government over the latter seeking U.S. help, purportedly on behalf of Mr. Zardari, to avert an Army coup. There was no official word on the hour-long meeting, but media reports said Gen. Kayani told Mr. Zardari that he had reservations about Mr. Gilani's criticism of him and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief over replies submitted to the Supreme Court regarding the memo scandal. The accusations centre round a memo that Mansoor Ijaz, a U.S. businessman of Pakistani origin, said Pakistani ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani asked him to deliver to Adm. Mike Mullen, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. According to Ijaz, the memo asked for U.S. help in heading off a possible military-led coup.
Gen. Kayanai reportedly requested the President to direct Mr. Gilani to “retract” his statements. The situation was further aggravated by the summary sacking of Lt. Gen. (retired) Khalid Naeem Lodhi, Defence Secretary, considered close to Gen. Kayani over an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court without consulting the government.
The apex court will on Monday hear the case relating to the National Reconciliation Ordinance promulgated during the former President, Pervez Musharraf's tenure that gave amnesty to Mr. Zardari and others in graft cases.