Zardari in Dubai as Pakistan tension simmers

Army chief meets senior generals

Pakistani former premier and opposition leader Nawaz Sharif (R) sits with party leaders as he chairs a meeting on the current political situation in Islamabad on Thursday. AFPIn the midst of a continuing army-government standoff, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday surprisingly flew to Dubai but fears of a military coup waned with the focus shifting to a crucial hearing by the Supreme Court Monday.

Both the powerful army and the government held their fire a day after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani summarily sacked Defence Secretary Naeem Khalid Lodhi, a retired General backed by the army, after he appeared to have toed the line of the military in a case before the apex court.
Speculation that Gilani may act against Army Chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and ISI head Lt Gen Shuja Pasha proved false.

Kayani, however, held a meeting with his top commanders at the General Headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi. The meeting was attended by both the Principal Staff Officers, or senior generals serving at the General Headquarters, and the Corps Commanders, who head formations across the country, sources said.

The issues that figured at the meeting could not be ascertained and there was no word from the military’s media wing.

Emergency meeting

An emergency meeting of the National Assembly called to discuss the situation arising out of the Supreme Court’s order adjourned after paying obituary references to spiritual and political leader Pir Saheb of Pagara Syed Mardan Shah and others. The assembly will meet again on Friday.

The day’s surprise development was the sudden decision of Zardari to go to Dubai on a day’s visit to attend the wedding of an undisclosed family friend and to possibly undergo a medical check-up.
He is expected to return Friday.

The Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing Monday of a case relating to alleged corruption at high places in which Zardari figures. It has come down heavily on Gilani for not not taking action in such cases and threatened to take action against him.

Observers here were of the view that the army was reluctant to stage a coup which may incur the wrath of the Supreme Court. But the possibility that the court may take action against Gilani, which could lead to an early poll, was being speculated widely.

Gilani has called an emergency session of the National Assembly to consider the situation arising out of Supreme Court’s order to the government to reopen high-profile corruption cases, including against Zardari.

Matters came to a head on Wednesday after the military warned that Prime Minister Gilani’s criticism of the army and intelligence chiefs could have “grievous consequences” and the premier sacked the Defence Secretary, considered close to the army chief.

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