Pakistan army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on Friday dismissed the speculation of a military takeover as “misleading”, accusing the country's political leadership of raising the coup “bogey” to divert focus from the real issues.
The statement released by Inter-Services Public Relations — an arm of the army's spy agency — did not elaborate what the “real issues” were.
Gen Kayani's statement followed speculations over a possible army coup, triggered by prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's statement in parliament on Thursday, blaming the army for plotting to bring down the democratically elected government.
The rumour also brought the judiciary out in the open, with chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry commenting, “There will be no takeover. Rest assured that the judges of the Supreme Court are here to protect and preserve the constitution.”
Meanwhile, India has made it clear that it will prefer a democratic government in Pakistan and will continue the dialogue process. “As far as our understanding goes, all stake-holders, including the Pakistan army, support the peace process. That’s what we have been given to understand,” a senior government official said. But Indian government sources are apprehensive that the domestic turmoil in Islamabad, coupled with the strain on the US-Pakistan ties, will have a negative impact on Afghanistan.
In Pakistan, assurances, however, did nothing to dispel the fear that the army and the government were on a collision course.
On Friday, President Asif Ali Zardari arrived in Islamabad from Karachi to resume his duties and the first thing that he did was to meet the leaders of the ruling PPP. The government has also started negotiating with its allies and others for forming a united front. Although Nawaz Sharif, leader of the opposition PML-N, assured support, media reports said his younger brother, Shahbaz Sharif, had begun talking to the army brass. Also, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Imran Khan also criticised Gilani for exposing “the army to world ridicule”. He told newsmen in Karachi that the statement “went against Pakistan's honour”.