Want no confrontation with Army: Zardari
Islamabad: Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, who arrived back here from Dubai early on Friday, has dismissed any suggestions of a confrontation with the country’s powerful Army leadership.
In a statement given to an Indian news channel, Zardari said that his government doesn’t want any confrontation with the Army or the Supreme Court and asserted that ‘matters will be sorted out’.
The embattled President said that his main aim is to bring the country’s economy back on track. On his sudden visit to Dubai, Zardari clarified that his visit was scheduled and strictly personal in nature.
His sudden departure to Dubai, yesterday evening, had led to speculation over whether he would survive heightened tension between his civilian government and the military.
A disputed memo allegedly from Zardari's government seeking US help in reining in the military has soured relations to their lowest point since a coup in 1999.
Military sources say that while they would like Zardari to go, it should be through constitutional means, not another of the coups that have marked half of Pakistan's almost 65 years of independence.
Meanwhile, the parliamentary party of the Pakistan Peoples Party would meet today. The meet is expected to bring more clarity on the situation in the restive country.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raja Gillani has also called a meeting of the Cabinet’s Defence Committee on Saturday, which will be attended by the Army Chief, in a possible sign of efforts to reduce friction.
Yesterday, shortly after Zardari left, Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani met his top commanders fuelling speculation that the Generals, who set security and foreign policies, have lost patience with the government.
However, political analysts say Kayani doesn't want a coup because the Army is fighting Islamist militants, the country is facing economic ruin and seizing power would trigger domestic and international criticism. But they say the Generals may be happy to allow a Supreme Court hostile to the government to dismiss Zardari if it can find a "constitutional" way to do so.
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister fired the Defence Secretary in a rare public display of assertiveness by the civilian government against the Army, as the fallout from the memogate scandal.
The court, regarded as an ally of the army, is investigating that affair and a second one linked to past corruption cases against the President. Both could potentially be used as a pretext to oust the current civilian leadership, which is showing no signs of bending.
Early last month, Zardari had traveled to Dubai for medical treatment, triggering rumours that he was either being pushed out by the powerful Army or was fleeing a potential coup. He returned after a few weeks, but tensions have continued to soar in the country, with critics gleefully predicting the government's imminent downfall.
The crisis is consuming the attentions of the ruling elite in a country that is struggling to overcome economic turmoil and a bloody Al Qaeda-fuelled insurgency.
The Army has ruled Pakistan for much of its six-decade existence, and it still sees itself as the rightful custodian of the country's interests. No civilian Pakistani government has ever completed its term in office.
The Zardari government, which was democratically elected in 2008, is determined to finish its term.
General elections are scheduled for next year, but could well take place sooner.