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Embattled Pak PM reaches out to Army

Pak PM`s seemingly conciliatory remarks came on a day when Kayani met Prez Zardari, in the midst of a tense stand-off between the military and the govt.



Islamabad: Embattled Pakistan Prime Minister
Yousuf Raza Gilani tonight appeared to reach out to the
powerful Army by stating that all state institutions will be
allowed to play their role in an apparent bid to resolve the
tense stand- off between the government and the military.

With Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani by his side, he
described the armed forces as a "pillar of 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,"
Gilani said at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee of Defence
attended by his ministers and top Army officials including
Kayani.

The Prime Minister`s seemingly conciliatory remarks came
on a day when Kayani met President Asif Ali Zardari at the
Presidency, in the midst of a tense stand-off between the
military and the government over a move purportedly on behalf
of Zardari seeking US help to avert an Army coup.

The situation was further aggravated by the summary
sacking of Lt Gen (retired) Khalid Naeem Lodhi, Defence
Secretary, considered close to Kayani over an affidavit filed
in the Supreme Court without consulting the government.

The apex court will on Monday hear the case relating to
National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) that was promulgated
during former President Pervez Musharraf`s tenure that gave
amnesty to Zardari and many others in graft cases.

The National Assembly, lower house of Parliament, will
also meet on Monday to vote on a resolution moved by a ruling
coalition member seeking strengthening of democratic
institutions.

Media reports said that during his meeting with Zardari,
Kayani requested the President to tell Gilani to "retract" his
statements criticising the chiefs of Army and the ISI.
There was no official word on what transpired in the
hour-long meeting.

In his speech today, Gilani said, "National unity is the
need of the hour. Democracy provides avenues to forge national
consensus.

"Each organ and state institution has to play its due
role, within its respective domain, to bring forth the best in
promoting Pakistan’s national interest."

At the same time, he pointed out that civil institutions
"have their due role to play for socio-economic development
and for ensuring progress and prosperity".

He said: "Together in complete harmony with each other
and other vital institutions, we can change the country`s
destiny and accord its rightful place in the comity of
nations."

The Prime Minister`s remarks reflected an apparent effort
by the government to ease tensions with the army after the two
sides indulged in angry exchanges earlier this week.

On Monday, Gilani had said the Army and intelligence
chiefs had acted in an "unconstitutional and illegal" manner
by filing affidavits on the memo issue in the Supreme Court
without getting the government`s approval.

The military hit back on Wednesday by saying that
Gilani`s criticism of the Army and ISI chiefs could have
"grievous consequences".

Gilani referred to his government`s efforts to work with
the military and other state institutions to strengthen
democracy and tackle challenges like national security issues.
Regular meetings of the Economic Coordination Committee
and Defence Committee of the Cabinet had helped achieve
consensus on important issues, he said.

"Forums for inter-ministerial and inter-agency
consultations and coordination, such as the DCC and the
Cabinet, exist and are functioning smoothly," he said.

The meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet was
called to discuss last year`s cross-border NATO air strike
that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and the government`s
subsequent decision to revamp its ties with the US and
NATO.

Besides Kayani, the meeting was attended by the air force
and navy chiefs, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Committee, Senior Minister for Defence Production Chaudhry
Pervaiz Elahi, Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar,
Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Interior Minister
Rehman Malik.

The Director General of the Intelligence Bureau attended
the meeting but ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha was
conspicuous by his absence.

The meeting considered the US Central Command`s inquiry
report on the cross-border NATO air strike of November 26 last
year that took Pakistan-US ties to a new low.

Referring to his government`s efforts to reset ties with
the US after the NATO attack, Gilani said Pakistan`s
sovereignty and territorial integrity were "not negotiable".

He said: "We would reject any approach that would tend to
compromise our sovereignty, honour and national dignity.
"Our contribution and steadfast commitment to stability
and peace at home and in our region is unquestionable and
second to none".

While engaging in the US-led war on terrorism, Pakistan
had endeavoured to safeguard its "supreme national interests
in a most effective and inclusive manner".

Pakistan has fought terrorism and extremism in its
"national interest" as the "continued strife and conflict in
Afghanistan" has directly impacted the country, he said.
Gilani said there was "complete national consensus that
terrorism will not be allowed any space on the sacred soil of
Pakistan".

He added that Pakistan`s cooperation with the
international community for the war on terror is based on a
"partnership approach, which entails mutual respect, trust and
mutual interest".

Following the NATO air strike, the Parliamentary Committee
on National Security was asked to frame recommendations for
resetting the ties with the US and a "full review of the terms
of cooperation with US, NATO, ISAF is in process", Gilani
said.

"Pakistan is a peace-loving country. We are committed to
forging good relations with all neighbours and the
international community.

"Pakistan will continue to play a responsible role for
promoting global and regional peace and security," he added.

PTI

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