Islamabad, Jan 14: Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani today met President Asif Ali Zardari and demanded that the prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani should withdraw his statement given to the official Chinese People's Daily.
A news agency report said, Gen Kayani expressed reservations over Gilani's statement in which he had criticized the Army chief and DG ISI Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha.
The report said, Gen Kayani told President Zardari that the prime minister should either clarify his statement or retract the same.
“The army chief complained to the president about the prime minister's statements, and said they needed to be either clarified or withdrawn,” the source told Reuters.
“He said such statements were divisive and made the country more vulnerable.”
Gilani in his interview had termed the responses given by COAS and DG ISI in the alleged Memo Case to the Supreme Court of Pakistan as "unconstitutional and illegal".
This follows the decision taken at the Pakistan Army corps commanders conference in which it was demanded that Gen Kayani should take strong action against such statements made by the political leadership.
Gen Kayani today told Zardari that such statements against the Army were not in the national interest.
Today's meeting that lasted for about an hour. It was the first between the two since the memo scandal triggered tense confrontation between the two sides.
Television channels beamed footage of a smiling President Zardari speaking with Kayani, who was wearing a dark suit instead of his trademark military uniform.
The army chief had last spoken to Zardari on phone when he met Prime Minister Gilani on December 16. Zardari was in Dubai at that time to seek treatment for a heart condition.
Sources told PTI that leaders in the Pakistan People's Party-led government and foreign diplomats had played a key role in arranging the meeting between Zardari and Kayani.
This comes against the backdrop of an escalating row over the alleged memo that had sought US help to stave off a feared military coup in Pakistan after the killing of Osama bin Laden in May last year.
On Monday, a 17-member bench of the Supreme Court will hear the government's response to a six-point “do-or-die” ultimatum given by it to the government to reopen old graft cases against Zardari and others.
The government has so far refused to carry out these orders, prompting the apex court to say that it could take action against Zardari as well as Gilani. The Court had described Gilani as “not an honest man”.
Matters reached a head earlier this week when the military asserted that Prime Minister Gilani's criticism of the army and intelligence chiefs over the memo issue could have “grievous consequences”.
The government retaliated by sacking Defence Secretary Lt Gen (retired) Khalid Naeem Lodhi, considered a confidant of Kayani, on charges of “gross misconduct”.
Lodhi earned the premier's ire by submitting an affidavit on the memo issue in the Supreme Court without seeking the government's approval.
The affidavit had contended that the government had no “operational control” of the army and the Inter-Services Intelligence.
The military had pushed for a probe into the memo issue by the Supreme Court while the government has said that the matter should be investigated by a parliamentary panel.
The memo issue has already cost the job of Pakistan's former envoy to the US, Husain Haqqani, a close aide of Zardari who was not liked by the military.
Meanwhile, The Times from London has reporting quoting "some observers" that Prime Minister Gilani may be considering to resign as part of a move to deflec the pressure on President Zardari and regain the moral high ground for the PPP-led government.
The newspaper report said President Zardari has also asked Aitzaz Ahsan, a leading lawyer and former ally of his late wife, Benazir Bhutto, to conduct secret negotiations with the court. Aitzaz Ahsan is also being tipped as a possible replacement for Gilani.
The newspaper disclosed, quoting a Pakistani military official, that the generals would “only step in if asked by the senior most judge in Pakistan.”
“There is no chance of a coup in Pakistan right now. The military is not going to allow the PPP to become political martyrs,” the newspaper said.
Quoting the military officer, The Times said: “We believe in democracy and the Constitution of the country and we are looking towards the Supreme Court. We will consider helping implement (the) court's decision if civil authorities fail to implement it.”