Pakistan’s Asif Ali Zardari heads to Dubai amid deepening political crisis

However, Talat Masood, a retired general and political analyst, said the
immediate threat of a coup had receded and both sides had come out of
exchange looking foolish.

“They have stepped back from the brink,” he said. “They
realised they are not in a position to cross red lines.”

On Wednesday the military publicly rebuked Yousuf Raza Gilani the prime
minister, after he criticised its most senior officer and the head of the
Inter-Services Intelligence agency. In their statement, the generals also
spoke of “potentially grievous consequences” – an ominous warning
to a country with a history of military coups.

Mr Gilani sacked his defence secretary in response.

The crisis has its roots in a scandal centred on an unsigned memo written to
senior US officials asking for their help in reducing the power of the
military and warding off a possible coup.

The so-called “Memogate” affair has already cost Husain Haqqani his
job as Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington. The former envoy denies writing
the document but now says he fears for his life and has sought refuge at the
prime minister’s house.

The Supreme Court is investigating whether the government endorsed the note.

Mr Zardari denies any involvement and his government has repeatedly accused
opponents of using the plot to bring him down.

Mr Zardari is also under threat from a second legal challenge. The Supreme
Court has ordered the government to revive a corruption investigation
against the president, in relation to Swiss money-laundering allegations
dating back to the 1990s.

The result is a three-way tug of war between the courts, the government and
the army as they try to bed down together after military rule under General
Pervez Musharraf, said Amir Rana, director of the Pakistan Institute for
Peace Studies.

“There’s a fault-line in the democratic transition and so each
institution is trying to safeguard its own position and interests,” he
said. “There is no room for compromise.”

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