Zardari leaves for Dubai amidst Army, Govt standoff in Pakistan



    The departure of President Asif Zardari from Pakistan – he has gone to Dubai – is the latest twist in the rapidly evolving political scene. Yesterday, the Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had sacked his defense secretary Retd. Lieutenant General Naeem Khalid Lodhi who was widely seen as being close to Army Chief Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani.

    The sacking came after  the Army issued a strongly worded reaction to Gilani’s charge that the Army was behaving unconstitutionally. The statement by the army said that the Prime Minister’s “critical comments” could have “serious ramifications” without elaborating what those ramifications could be. “There can be no allegation more serious than what the prime minister has levelled against (Kayani and Pasha) and has unfortunately charged the officers (with) violation of the constitution.

    “This has very serious ramifications with potentially grievous consequences for the country,” it warned. Earlier, Gilani had said to a Chinese daily that Kayani and Pasha acted illegally by making unilateral submissions to a Supreme Court inquiry on the memogate.

    The tit for tat moves by the civilian and the military wings of the government have raised fears of another military coup. Zardari’s exit today becomes significant as it comes in the backdrop of a Supreme Court investigation into what is being called ‘memogate’.  Asif Ali Zardari had allegedly sent a memo to the commander of American forces in Afghanistan General Mike Mullen after the raid that killed bin Laden. In the memo the Pakistani president had expressed fears of a military coup in the country and asked for help.

    The memo had been carried to the general with the Pakistani ambassador Haqqani acting as a go between. Haqqani has already lost his job and is now being investigated. Gilani has been raising the tempo against the military as the scandal played out.

    Even though Zardari has left for only a day, his departure becomes significant in the light of the fact that Pakistani leaders are in the habit of taking refuge in foreign countries when Pakistan becomes too hot for them.

    Nawaz Sharif, Benazir Bhutto and former president Pervez Musharraf have all spent time outside the country. it is just possible that Zardari might have to stop for a longer period in Dubai than it is now being presumed.