Islamabad: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has moved to calm mounting tensions between the government and the armed forces, saying the civilian leadership fully supports the military.
His comments came after a confrontation with the military over a probe into the government’s role in a scandal centred on a mysterious memo that sought US help in curbing the army’s power and triggered fears of another coup.
“The armed forces of Pakistan are a pillar of the nation’s resilience and strength,” Gilani told a scheduled meeting of the cabinet defence committee late Saturday.
“The nation applauds their heroic services in the defence of the motherland.
“Our government and parliament and above all our patriotic people have stood fully behind our brave armed forces and security personnel.”
The meeting, in which Gilani called for national unity, was attended by army chief General Ashfaq Kayani, widely regarded as Pakistan’s most powerful figure, as well as several other top military officials.
Kayani also held talks with President Asif Ali Zardari Saturday and government officials in the capital Islamabad said both meetings would help defuse the mounting tensions between the civilian and military leadership.
Pakistan has been under military dictatorships for about half its history since independence in 1947, with civilian leaders thrown out in three coups.
But despite current tensions, analysts say another coup is unlikely and they instead predict early elections, possibly in the first half of this year.
The “Memogate” scandal centres on an unsigned note allegedly sent by an aide of Zardari to the US military last May, apparently to avert a possible coup after the killing of Osama bin Laden.
The Supreme Court has been tasked with deciding whether the government endorsed the note, and if so, if it can remain in power.