Islamabad, Jan 14: Pakistan Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani today met President Asif Ali Zardari triggering speculation that moves could be made to resolve the tense stand-off between the government and the powerful military.
The meeting that lasted for about an hour is the first between the two since the memo scandal triggered tense confrontation between the two sides.
There was no official word on what transpired at the meeting at the Presidency before a crucial meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet to be chaired by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
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.