M A I N   N E W S

Gilani softens, but Kayani wants further climb-down
l PM says armed forces are a ‘pillar of nation's resilience and strength’
l Army chief insists on withdrawal of statements critical of military

Islamabad, January 14
Embattled Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani tonight appeared to reach out to the army but the powerful Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is reported to have adopted a tough stance and wants withdrawal of his statements critical of the military.

With Kayani by his side, Gilani said today that all state institutions will be allowed to play their role, remarks seen as an attempt to resolve the tense stand-off between the civilian government and the military.

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.

There was no official word on the hour-long meeting but media reports said that Kayani told Zardari that he had reservations over Gilani's criticism of him and the ISI chief over replies submitted to the Supreme Court regarding the memo scandal.

Kayanai reportedly requested the President to direct Gilani to "retract" his statements criticising the chiefs of army and the ISI chief. 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." — PTI






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