Zardari gets in talking mode with military

Islamabad: Even as temperatures have soared in Islamabad over the Gilani-Kayani face-off, the presidency and the Pakistani military are engaged in parleys aimed at defusing the tensions between the two sides over memo scandal.

Away from the storm generated by the Supreme Court`s contempt notice issued to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Monday for failing to reopen high-profile graft cases, talks continued between the government and the military establishment for defusing the situation.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen Khalid Shameem Wynne met President Asif Ali Zardari at the presidency on Monday for a follow-up meeting to talks held between the President and army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani over the weekend, the Dawn newspaper quoted a source as saying.

A brief statement issued by the presidency said Zardari and Wynne discussed professional matters pertaining to the armed forces. However, sources told the Dawn that the two leaders focussed on finding a way out of the ongoing impasse.

Though there was no certainty about how the civil-military talks were progressing, there were "hints that some progress is being made", the report said.

An unnamed army official told the Dawn that Kayani had made no demand during his meeting with Zardari that the Prime Minister should retract comments about the army chief acting unconstitutionally in his handling of the memo issue.

The official said the meeting between the army chief and the President was held "for lowering temperatures rather than raising it". The presidency too has denied media report that Kayani had asked Zardari to tell the Prime Minister to explain or retract his comments about the army and intelligence chiefs acting in an "unconstitutional and illegal" manner while filing affidavits on the memo issue in the Supreme Court.

Some observers following the civil-military dialogue were worried that legal developments could unsettle the easing of tensions between the two sides.

Some quarters have suggested that the military was the force behind the legal battles in the Supreme Court over the reopening of graft cases and the memo scandal that can potentially cause the government`s downfall.

While speaking in the National Assembly or lower house of parliament on Monday night after the House passed a pro-democracy resolution, Gilani said the military and judiciary must protect democracy instead of making efforts to "pack up" or derail the democratic system.