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Gilani Retracts Criticism of Pakistan’s Military Over Memo Probe

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani retracted his remarks against the military in which he accused the army of violating the constitution, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

Gilani criticized the army on Jan. 9 for overstepping its authority by directly submitting to the Supreme Court its response to claims the government sought U.S. help to stop a possible military coup following the May killing of Osama bin Laden. A Jan. 11 army statement warned the comments would have “grievous consequences” for the country.

Gilani told reporters yesterday before leaving for Davos, Switzerland, that he was “dispelling” the Jan. 9 remarks and that the government and the military “have to be on the same page,” APP reported. Meetings with the army chief, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, and head of military intelligence head, Lieutenant General Ahmed Shujaa Pasha, have helped clarify the situation, the report quoted him as saying.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court has ordered a commission to probe allegations by a Pakistani-American businessman that President Asif Ali Zardari’s envoy to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, sent a memo to senior Pentagon officials seeking help to prevent any military takeover following the American raid near Islamabad that killed bin Laden.

Gilani’s government opposed the judicial investigation on the grounds that it had already announced a parliamentary inquiry into the scandal. The military supports the Supreme Court probe.

Haqqani, who was dismissed over the memo issue, and the government deny involvement in its drafting or delivery. Haqqani served as an adviser to Zardari and in the 1990s and was a spokesman for Zadari’s wife, Benazir Bhutto, during her tenure as prime minister.

The issue has triggered the biggest confrontation between Pakistan’s generals and elected leaders since army rule ended four years ago. The showdown complicates U.S. efforts to restore a strained relationship with Pakistan that is key to its bid to stabilize Afghanistan before a planned troop withdrawal in 2014.

To contact the reporter on this story: Haris Anwar in Islamabad at hanwar2@bloomberg.net; James Rupert in New Delhi at jrupert3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg in Hong Kong at phirschberg@bloomberg.net.

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