News / Asia

Pakistan PM Looks to Bolster Democracy Amid Tensions With the Military

Pakistan's prime minister has told lawmakers they must choose between democracy or a dictatorship, amid growing tensions between the country's civilian government and the military.

Yousuf Raza Gilani addressed the National Assembly Friday, telling lawmakers democracy must survive, regardless of the outcome of an investigation concerning a controversial unsigned memo that allegedly sought U.S. help in curbing the army's power.  

One of President Asif Ali Zardari's allies introduced a resolution in parliament pledging "full confidence and trust" in Pakistan's political leadership. The measure will be debated Monday.

Prime Minister Gilani said the resolution is not against any institution, including the judiciary or the army. Instead, he said the measure supports the democratic process and the continuity of the parliamentary system in Pakistan.  
The crisis between the government and military stems from an unsigned memo that allegedly sought U.S. help to prevent a military coup in Pakistan.

A Supreme Court-appointed panel is investigating the origins of the unsigned memo, in which Pakistan's civilian government asked for U.S. help in reining in the Pakistani military, following the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden last May.

Prime Minister Gilani's office on Friday denied a report that he telephoned the Britain's high commissioner to Islamabad, Adam Thompson, seeking British help to preempt a military coup in Pakistan.

The British government also denied the report.

On Friday, President Zardari returned to Islamabad after a one-day trip to Dubai.  

The president's trip came as army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani met with top commanders on Thursday.  Officials said the senior military officers discussed the "prevailing situation," referring to the memo scandal.

Authorities said Mr. Zardari's trip to the United Arab Emirates was not linked to the current crisis in Pakistan. They said he attended a wedding in Dubai.

Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz last October accused the then-Pakistani Ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, of writing the memo outlining fears of a military takeover.  Haqqani denies he wrote the document and has since resigned.

The army has ruled Pakistan for most of its existence since independence from Britain in 1947. There have been three military coups in Pakistan, and no civilian government has ever completed its term in office.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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