Pakistan ruling party lobbies for support under intense pressure

By Michael Georgy and Qasim Nauman ,Reuters

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari’s ruling party lobbied coalition partners on Friday for a vote of support as the government faces the most intense pressure from the powerful military since a 1999 coup. One of Zardari’s allies introduced a resolution in parliament which places “full confidence and trust” in the political leadership of the nuclear armed South Asian state. The National Assembly will debate the confidence motion on Monday and the government hopes for a vote next week. Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani was cautious, saying the purpose of the move was not an attack on the military, which has ruled the country for more than half of its 64-year history through a series of coups, and from behind the scenes. President Asif Ali Zardari returned to Pakistan on Friday from a trip to Dubai, his spokesman said, as speculation swirled over whether he would survive heightened tension between his civilian government and the country’s powerful military.

“The president returned to Islamabad in the wee hours of Friday morning,” the spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, told Reuters. A disputed memo allegedly from Zardari’s government seeking U.S. help in reining in the generals soured relations between the civilian leadership and the military, pushing them to their lowest point since the last military coup in 1999. While another takeover is unlikely, the open hostilities will reinforce the view that Pakistan’s leaders are caught up in power struggles so often that they are incapable of running a country facing enormous social, security and economic problems. The latest crisis also troubles Washington, which wants smooth ties between civilian and military leaders so that Pakistan can help efforts to stabilize neighboring Afghanistan, a top priority for President Barack Obama. Some coalition partners of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) warned that Zardari and his allies should not push the military too hard, fearing further upheaval in the South Asian nation facing a Taliban insurgency of its own. “We will support any such resolution as it will be a move to strengthen democracy in the country, but it will be difficult for us to support any resolution which targets any state institution,” said a member of parliament from a major coalition ally of the PPP. Gilani was similarly cautious. “The resolution we mentioned, its purpose is absolutely not that we are against any institution,” he told parliament in a speech televised live. “It absolutely does not mean we are bringing this against the military.”