Pakistan Army Chief Kayani meets top commanders

Amid the stand-off between the Army and the government, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday flew to Dubai, but fears of a military coup lessened with the focus shifting to a crucial hearing by the Supreme Court on Monday.

Both the powerful Army and the government held back their fire a day after Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani dismissed Defence Secretary Naeem Khalid Lodhi, a retired General backed by the Army, after he appeared to have toed the line of the military in a case before the Supreme Court.

The speculation that Mr. Gilani might act against Army Chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Inter-Services Intelligence Director-General Shuja Pasha did not come true.

Gen. Kayani, however, held a meeting with his top commanders at the General Headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi. The meeting was attended by the Principal Staff Officers, or senior generals serving at the General Headquarters, and the Corps Commanders, who head formations across the country, sources said.

The issues that figured at the meeting could not be ascertained, and there was no word from the military's media wing either.

An emergency meeting of the National Assembly, called by Mr. Gilani to discuss the situation arising out of the Supreme Court's order, adjourned after obituary references to spiritual and political leader Pir Saheb of Pagara Syed Mardan Shah and others. The Assembly will meet again on Friday.

The surprise development during the day was Mr. Zardari's sudden decision to go to Dubai, on a day's visit, to attend the wedding of an undisclosed family friend and to possibly undergo a medical check-up. He is expected to return home on Friday.

The Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing for Monday of a case relating to alleged corruption at high places, in which Mr. Zardari figures. It has come down heavily on Mr. Gilani for not taking action in such cases and threatened to take action against him.

Observers here were of the view that the Army was reluctant to stage a coup, an act which may incur the wrath of the Supreme Court.

Matters came to a head on Wednesday after the military warned that Mr. Gilani's criticism of the Army and intelligence chiefs could have “grievous consequences” and the Prime Minister sacked the Defence Secretary, considered close to the Army Chief.

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