Pakistan's top civilian and military leadership held a nearly two-hour meeting ahead of a crucial conference of political parties convened by the government today to forge national consensus on dealing with mounting tensions with the US.
President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani met in the Presidency late last night and "reviewed the current issues facing the country", presidential spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said.
Foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Inter-Services Intelligence agency chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha will brief the meeting of the country's top political leadership convened by Gilani against the backdrop of mounting tensions with the US.
Nearly 60 leaders of political and religious parties, including the PML-N and Jamaat-e-Islami, will attend the brainstorming session that is expected to frame a coordinated response to US accusations linking the ISI to the Haqqani network and a proxy war in Afghanistan.
Khar, who returned yesterday from a visit to the US where she represented Pakistan at the UN General Assembly session, will brief the meeting on foreign policy matters while Pasha will provide a briefing on the security situation, including Pakistan's response to US threats of unilateral action against militant groups like the Haqqani network, official sources said.
The foreign minister's briefing assumes significance as she is the only senior Pakistani leader who has had direct contacts with the Obama administration since US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen described the Haqqani network as a "veritable arm" of the ISI and alleged the spy agency was backing the Taliban faction in carrying out attacks in Afghanistan. Senior military officials will brief the political leadership about options available to Pakistan, the sources said.
The political leadership is expected to provide suggestions to project Pakistan's stance and clear "misperceptions about its security forces", they said.
The military leadership will be represented by army chief Gen Kayani and joint chiefs of staff committee chairman Gen Khalid Shameem Wynne.
The meeting, to be held at the Prime Minister’s House, will get underway at 2pm.
Among the leaders who have confirmed their participation in the meeting are PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Jamaat-e-Islami chief Munawar Hasan, Awami Muslim League leader Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan and PML-Q head Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain.
Ahead of the crucial meeting, Prime Minister Gilani on Wednesday urged people to "stand united to face several challenges the country was facing and to thwart all attempts to destabilise Pakistan".
The people "should unite on a single point agenda for the defence, integrity, solidarity and sovereignty of Pakistan", he said.
The US allegations against the Pakistani military and the ISI have triggered anti-American protests across the country in the past few days.
In Lahore, a group of lawyers staged a protest against the US threats of unilateral action.
The Pakistan government has convened meetings of all political parties twice in the recent past when it was confronted with crises.
The first such meeting was held in December 2008 amidst tensions with India over the Mumbai terror attacks while the second meeting was held in May 2009 to forge consensus on launching a military offensive against Taliban fighters in the northwestern Swat valley.