ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani used a Christmas address on Saturday to welcome comments from army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani that the military had no plans to topple the civilian government.
“The clarification from the army chief yesterday is extremely well-taken in democratic circles,” the PM told reporters at a church in Islamabad. “There will definitely be an improvement because of it,” said a reconciliatory Gilani, who delivered a fire and brimstone speech on Thursday in the National Assembly in which he hit out at the military establishment and its purported efforts to topple the government.
Despite the PM’s apparent elation, it may not be farfetched to assume all is still not forgotten on the part of Gen Kayani, who told his troops on Friday the military would continue to support democracy in Pakistan.
The army chief was conspicuous by his absence from two dinners in honour of a visiting senior Chinese diplomat – one hosted by the prime minister on Friday and one by President Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday.
Gilani’s remarks on Saturday represented something of a softening of stance by the government. The PM is – perhaps optimistically – looking for closure to speculation in the new year. “The season of rumours will end in March,” he said, although he did not respond when asked about the second part of the army chief’s statement. Questioning the government’s intentions, Kayani had said: “the reason behind the rumours of a military coup is to divert attention from core issues”.
Despite the qualified assurance from the army chief, the PM seemed in a buoyant mood. He also pointed to the Punjab Assembly passing a resolution in support of democracy, claiming it demonstrated the strength of democracy in the country due to the sacrifices made by the Pakistan Peoples Party.
When asked head-on about the series of different statements regarding the military’s intent, the premier said: “The military and civilian leadership were on the same page for the last four years on issues of terrorism, Pakistan-US relations and Kashmir.”
He concluded with a declaration of transparency in governance. “We will not do anything while hiding and whatever is done, will come in the open,” the PM said.
(With additional input from Reuters)
Published in The Express Tribune, December 25th, 2011.