Pakistani president, military leader meet amid tensions

Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani receives a salute from an officer in Islamabad in 2008.

Story highlights

  • The prime minister also hosts a meeting with defense officials
  • Pakistan's president meets with the top general
  • There have been tensions between the two sides for some time
  • An analyst says the meeting helps relieve tensions

Embattled Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari met with Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani -- a sign that, some say, shows tensions between Pakistan's civilian and military leadership are cooling down.

The two met on Saturday to discuss the "current security situation," presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar told CNN.

A second meeting between civilian and military leadership took place afterward, as Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani convened the Cabinet's defense committee.

The meetings come one day after Pakistani and British official denied a report that Pakistani prime minister contacted the British High Commission to express fears that a military coup was imminent in his country. Officials from both countries said such a call never took place.

Saturday's meeting signaled an easing of tensions between the military and the president, said retired Brig. Mehmoud Shah.

"It's a good beginning to soothe the tension that's gripping the country," said Shah, a military analyst. "It shows the two sides are prepared to talk and want the democratic system to move forward."

During the prime minister's meeting with leaders, he stressed that Pakistan's sovereignty is non-negotiable, according to a news release.

"We would reject any approach that would tend to compromise our sovereignty, honor and national dignity," Gilani said. "Our contribution and steadfast commitment to stability and peace at home and in our region is unquestionable and second to none. "

For Pakistan, there is a need for national unity, especially between the military and the civilian government, he said.

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"Together in complete harmony with each other and other vital institutions we can change the country's destiny and accord, its rightful place in the comity of nations," he said.

Military officials did not immediately comment on the meetings and their outcomes.

The military and the government have been locked in a tense standoff after an alleged secret effort by the government last year to ward off a possible military coup by curbing the army's power with Washington's help.

The government denied the accusation but the Supreme Court is investigating the scandal and its findings could threaten President Zardari and his ruling party.

A series of events have also added to the furor.

The U.S. killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden during a May raid on a compound located only about a mile from the Pakistan Military Academy in Abbottabad enraged the Pakistani public and deeply embarrassed the military.

Relations became even more strained in November, after NATO forces said they mistakenly killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers in airstrikes near the Afghan border -- an attack the United States insists was an act of self-defense after its troops were fired upon.

Pakistan's government has formally disputed the findings of the U.S. investigation into the airstrike, saying the bombardment went on long after it reported its troops were under fire.

And the United States launched its first drone attack in Pakistan Tuesday after more than a month-long lull, killing at least four suspected militants.