Gilani Seeks to Put Row With Military Behind

Rezaul H Laskar/Islamabad
Gilani Seeks to Put Row With Military Behind
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani today sought to put his simmering row with the powerful military behind, saying he had criticised the actions of the army and intelligence chiefs in "unique situations" that no longer prevailed.

Referring to his comments about the army and ISI chiefs acting in an unconstitutional and illegal manner in the memo scandal, Gilani said those remarks were made at a time when "there were lot of events taking place and there were lot of government functionaries whose issues were overlapping".

Gilani said, "I am dispelling that the remarks given at that occasion; they were under unique situation when the things were overlapping and there was no clarity.

"But since there is clarity and now we have all met and that does not pertain to these two gentlemen (army and ISI chiefs)" he said while interacting with the media before he left for Davos to attend the World Economic Forum.

"The country cannot function when there is confrontation between institutions. So for the national interest, we have to be seen on the same page," Gilani told reporters at Chaklala military airbase in Rawalpindi.

The government had found some "discrepancies" that were "made by certain functionaries" in handling the memo issue, he said.

"I've taken action against them," he added. The situation now was clear and there was no ambiguity, he said.

Though Gilani did not name of the functionaries responsible for the discrepancies, he was apparently referring to former Defence Secretary Lt Gen (retired) Khalid Naeem Lodhi, whom the premier sacked earlier this month for creating misunderstandings between state institutions.

Gilani had triggered a storm on January 9 when he said during an interview that army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha had acted in an unconstitutional and illegal manner by submitting affidavits on the memo issue to the Supreme Court without getting the Defence Minister's approval.

The army responded two days later, saying in a statement that Gilani's remarks could have "grievous consequences".

Shortly after the army issued that statement, Gilani sacked the Defence Secretary, considered a confidant of Kayani.

The government and the military have been locked in a confrontation since last year over a mysterious memo made public by Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz.

The alleged memo sought US help to stave off a possible coup in Pakistan after the killing of Osama bin Laden in May last year.

In recent days, the two sides have taken steps to reduce tensions.

Steps to end the standoff were discussed during President Asif Ali Zardari's recent meeting with Kayani and Gen Khalid Shameem Wynne, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.

Kayani and Zardari also met informally over tea on the sidelines of a recent ceremony at the presidency.

The army chief had skipped several official functions at the presidency after the memo issue triggered a confrontation.

Gilani too met the army and ISI chiefs last night to discuss the regional security situation and the reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

Asked about this meeting, Gilani said he discussed issues ranging from national security to Afghanistan with the army and ISI chiefs.

Later, Gilani left for Davos in Switzerland along with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Sheikh.

He said the World Economic Forum is an important platform for discussing economic issues and promoting cooperation among countries.

He said he would host a reception for participants of the WEF for closer interaction with them to find ways of promoting greater cooperation.

He said he would also meet world leaders on the sidelines of the meet.
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