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Updated: December 4, 2010 23:12 IST

Pakistan Army says it is ‘pro-democracy'

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General Ashfaq Kayani
General Ashfaq Kayani

“Kayani respects political leadership”

Pakistan Army on Saturday said it was “pro-democracy and would continue to remain so”, days after leaked U.S. diplomatic cables revealed its chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had mulled toppling civilian President Asif Ali Zardari amid a political stand off.

Apparently stung by disclosures of strained relations between the military and politicians, the Army stepped in and said it “supported the political set-up while remaining within constitutional limits”.

Referring to media reports based on confidential cables, chief military spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas said Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani respected the country's political leadership and all national leaders, including PML-N head and former Premier Nawaz Sharif.

“The Pakistan Army is pursuing a clear policy of supporting the political set-up while remaining within constitutional limits and General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani respects all the political leadership,” Major-General Abbas told the media.

The Army was “pro-democracy and will continue to remain so within the constitution's ambit”, he said.

The armed forces “give preference to national interests in dealing with the challenges confronting Pakistan”, he added.

The cables leaked by whistle-blower website WikiLeaks contained numerous revelations about tense relations between General Kayani and the country's two main political leaders, ruling Pakistan People's Party chief and President Asif Ali Zardari and main opposition PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif.

One cable revealed that General Kayani considered the possibility of pressuring Mr. Zardari to resign as President during a political stand-off last year on the issue of reinstating judges sacked during the 2007 emergency.

In four conversations with then U.S. Ambassador, Anne Patterson, in March last year, General Kayani “hinted that, however reluctantly, he might have to urge Zardari to resign, if conditions deteriorate”. Ms. Patterson also wrote in the cable that General Kayani had made it clear to the U.S. that “regardless of how much he disliked Zardari, he distrusted Nawaz [Sharif] even more”.

On the other hand, another cable released by Wikileaks revealed that Mr. Zardari distrusted the powerful military and even feared that the Army posed a threat to his position and his life.

In March 2009, U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden told the then British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, that Mr. Zardari had told him that the Inter-Services Intelligence “director and Kayani will take me out”.

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