Pak army claims it is `pro-democracy`

Pakistan Army says it was "pro-democracy and would continue to remain so".

Last Updated: Dec 05, 2010, 00:49 AM IST

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

Apparently stung by disclosures by internet whistle-blower of strained relations between the military and politicians, army stepped in and in a damage control said it "supported the political set-up while remaining within constitutional limits".

Referring to media reports based on confidential cables, chief military spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas said army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani respects 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 Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani respects all the political leadership," Abbas told the media.
The army is "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 the whistle-blowing website contained numerous revelations about tense relations between 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 Kayani considered the possibility of pressuring 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 US Ambassador Anne Patterson in March last year, Kayani "hinted that, however reluctantly, he might have to urge Zardari to resign, if conditions deteriorate".
Patterson also wrote in the cable that Kayani had made it clear to the US 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 Zardari distrusted the powerful military and even feared that the army posed a threat to his position and his life.

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

PTI