Pak military-Zardari standoff as Gilani govt pushed for shake-up to the limit: NYT

Islamabad, Sep 29 (ANI): The Pakistani military, enraged by the inept handling of the country's devastating floods by the government, and alarmed by the collapse of the economy, is pushing for a shake-up of the elected government, and in the longer term, even the removal of President Asif Ali Zardari and his top lieutenants.

According to the press and Pakistani officials, in a meeting presided over by President Asif Ali Zardari, COAS General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani confronted the president and his prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani over the incompetence and corruption in the government, and demanded that they dismiss at least some ministers in the oversized 60-member cabinet, many of whom face corruption charges, the New York Times reported.

While the civilian government has so far resisted Kayani's demand, the meeting has been widely interpreted by Pakistani news media as having pushed the government to the brink.

After the meeting, the president's office issued a statement, approved by the trio, saying they had agreed "to protect the democratic process and to resolve all issues in accordance with the constitution."

A Pakistani official, close to Zardari and familiar with the conversation, said, "The president made it clear that he would not leave, come what may."

Still, it is clear that General Kayani, head of the country's most powerful institution, and the one that has taken the lead in the flood crisis, has ratcheted up pressure upon the government, the report said.

Rifaat Hussain, a professor of international relations at Islamabad University and a confidant of the military, said, "The gross economic mismanagement by the government is at the heart of it... And there is the rising public disaffection with the Pakistani Peoples Party under Zardari and Gilani."

American officials, too, say that the government's performance since the floods has left them increasingly disillusioned with Zardari, a deeply unpopular president who was elected two and a half years ago on a wave of sympathy after the assassination of his wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. (ANI)

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