Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Wednesday appeared to move away from his earlier charge that the military had acted ‘unconstitutionally’, saying that the remarks were made under a ‘unique situation’ and were no longer relevant.
“I want to dispel the impression that the military leadership acted unconstitutionally or violated rules,” he said, while talking to the media before leaving for Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Gilani had criticised army chief General Ashfaq Kayani and Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha for filing responses ‘directly’ to the Supreme Court in an investigation into the memo controversy that found the military and civilian leaderships at loggerheads.
In an interview with Chinese media, Gilani had said the filings were “unconstitutional,” infuriating the military’s high command which responded with a stern press release, warning that remarks would have “very serious ramifications with potentially grievous consequences for the country.”
However, Gilani seemed to back down from a confrontation, saying on Wednesday that his remark was made “under a unique situation when … there was no clarity”.
“But since (then) there is clarity and now we have all met, and that (remark) does not pertain to these two gentlemen.”
The prime minister’s comments come a day after a high-level meeting with the army top brass to discuss a possible trilateral summit on the future of Afghanistan.
Premier Gilani, who has recently backed off from a streak of rhetoric, especially against the powerful establishment, once again appeared to be on cordial terms with the military, saying that all institutions should be on the same page.
“The current situation cannot afford conflict among the institutions,” he said.
It is believed that the standoff between the ruling PPP and the military after the emergence of the controversial memo appears to be subsiding, partially due to capricious attitude of Mansoor Ijaz, the main character behind Memogate, but mainly because of mediation by interlocutors.
“There were lot of events taking place, and there was overlapping by a lot of government functionaries on many issues, and I said it in that context,” the prime minister said referring to his interview with the Chinese newspaper.
The confrontation over replies by the army top brass had also resulted in the sacking of former defence secretary Gen (retd) Khalid Naeem Lodhi by Prime Minister Gilani.
“Later, we found out about some discrepancies made by certain functionaries. I have taken action against them. So, the remarks of being unconstitutional or against the rules do not pertain to the army chief and the director general ISI,” he said, alluding to his action of sacking the secretary.
The PPP-led government is also facing pressure from superior courts where a number of cases, including the graft charges against President Asif Ali Zardari, are pending.
PPP insiders say that as part of a strategy, the party will try to close its front with the military so that it can focus more on other fronts.
The prime minister is scheduled to hold meetings with world leaders who will gather at Davos, Switzerland to deliberate on global economic issues.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will open the annual event, in which 40 heads of state, 18 of the world’s central bankers and around 2,600 of the world’s top political and business leaders are expected to participate.
(WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AGENCIES)
Published in The Express Tribune, January 26th, 2012.