Kayani calls on Zardari

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ISLAMABAD, Jan 14: Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani held a one-on-one meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday shortly before attending the all important meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC).

It was the first meeting between the two after President Asif Ali Zardari’s trip to Dubai last month for medical treatment and many saw it as a positive development that may help defuse the ongoing tension between the government and the army.

But neither the Press Information Department nor the Inter Services Public Relations release any photograph of the meeting.

Analysts also saw significance in the remarks made by the prime minister in praise of the armed forces and security personnel during the DCC meeting, saying it signalled an easing in the government’s tough posture against the Army.

The meeting took place five days after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani accused the Chief of Army Staff and the Director General of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) of violating the rules of business by bypassing ministries of defence and law while submitting statements in the Supreme Court in the memo case and the ISPR rejected the allegation.

A sketchy handout released after the meeting merely said the two discussed the security situation. The Reuters news agency, however, claimed that the Chief of Army Staff asked President Zardari to persuade Prime Minister Gilani to retract his statement. The report was instantly rejected by the presidency.

Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said a section of the media had speculated on the discussion between the President and the army chief. “The reports, without quoting source, are hypothetical, based on conjecture and in the realm of speculation.”

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