13 Jan 2012

Pakistan president 'to return from Dubai'

9:50 am on 13 January 2012

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari flew to Dubai on Thursday on a private visit, amid deepening tension between the civilian government and the military.

The Foreign Ministry said the president was on a personal trip and would return the following day.

Earlier on Thursday a meeting between army chief General Ashfaq Kayani and his top commanders fueled speculation that the generals, who set security and foreign policies, have lost patience with the government.

However military sources told Reuters that while they would like Mr Zardari to go, it should be through constitutional means, not a coup.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has called a meeting of the cabinet's defence committee for Saturday and the army chief will attend, in what may be a sign of easing tensions.

The military on Wednesday warned of "grievous consequences" after the prime minister accused the army and spy chiefs of violating the constitution.

The remarks came after Gilani, citing "gross misconduct" sacked the defence secretary, a post seen usually as the military's main advocate in the civilian bureaucracy.

At the centre of the rift is an anonymous memo allegedly seeking US help in reining in Pakistan's military. Pakistan's Supreme Court is investigating the memo. The US says it received the memo but took no action.

The Supreme Court has also threatened the government with contempt proceedings if it does not take action on long-standing corruption cases against Mr Zardari.