Pak Army seeks to dispel speculation of a standoff

Media reports say, a tense showdown may be in the offing between the powerful Army and a besieged civilian government.

Last Updated: Dec 19, 2011, 18:41 PM IST

Islamabad: Hours after Pakistan President
Asif Ali Zaradri suddenly returned home in the thick of
brewing standoff over the memogate affair, the Army sought to
dispel impression that a telephonic conversation between him
and its powerful chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had anything
to do with the "some events" in last 72 hours.

"Some events of the last 72 hours are being attributed to
the telephonic conversation between the President and COAS and
the meeting between the Prime Minister and COAS held on
December 16," said a brief statement issued by the military.

The abrupt statement by the Army as the country`s Supreme Court began hearing the controversial case with the Chief
Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry expressed displeasure at the remarks
of federal ministers on its handling of a case.

With the court going ahead with the case despite pleas by
the government that a parliamentary committee was probing the
affair, the apex court appeared to be headed for a
confrontation with the government.

Media reports say that a tense showdown may be in the
offing between the powerful Army and a besieged civilian
government.

The Army statement which comes in this backdrop said, "The
telephonic conversation between the President and COAS lasted
approximately one minute in which he (Kayani) enquired about
the health of the President.

"Hence, attributing anything more to this telephonic
conversation is unfounded and unnecessary."

Reports in the Pakistani media had speculated that the
meeting between Kayani and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani,
as well as the phone conversation between the Army chief and
the President, were in some way connected to efforts to defuse
the crisis caused by the alleged memo that had sought US help
to prevent a coup in Pakistan after the killing of Osama bin
Laden in May.

On December 15, the Army chief and the ISI chief had
backed the Supreme Court`s move to conduct a probe into the
Memogate scandal.

On the other hand, the government asked the court to
dismiss petitions seeking a probe into the matter, saying it
had already ordered an investigation by a parliamentary panel.

It was against this backdrop that Gen Kayani and Prime
Minister Gilani held a meeting on December 16.

During the meeting, President Zardari - who was then in
Dubai to receiving treatment for a heart condition - called
Gilani.

Zardari also spoke to Kayani at the time - the first
contact between the two leaders since the President travelled
to Dubai on December 6.

The 56-year-old President returned to Karachi early this
morning from Dubai following heart treatment, hours before the
apex court took up the Memogate case again.

The military statement noted that Gilani had spoken on the
conversation between Zardari and Kayani.

It quoted Gilani as saying: "During the meeting with the
COAS on Friday night, I received a telephonic call from the
President by chance. When I informed the President that I was
having a meeting with the Army chief, the President asked me
to convey his regards to General Kayani.

"On this, the COAS showed his desire to speak to the
President".

The statement further said a "comprehensive" and
"unambiguous" release had been issued by the Prime Minister`s
House on the meeting between Kayani and Gilani.

In that statement, Gilani and Kayani had rejected the
impression of a "standoff" between the Army and the government
on the Memogate scandal.

Gilani had also said that he had taken "serious note of
the rumours regarding a confrontation" over the issue of the
alleged memo and that he "strongly rejected the notion".

Gilani and Kayani said the stand taken by the military in
the apex court "should not be misconstrued as a standoff
between the Army and the government".

PTI