President Back in Pakistan as Tensions With Army Rise

Pakistani Crisis Prompts Leader to Race Home

By ERIC SCHMITT and SALMAN MASOOD

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A tense showdown between Pakistan’s powerful army and its besieged civilian government brought President Asif Ali Zardari hurrying back from Dubai early on Monday, after weeks of growing concerns by his supporters that the military has been moving to strengthen its role in the country’s governance.

Pushed by the army, a Pakistani Supreme Court hearing set to begin on Monday will investigate whether Mr. Zardari’s government was behind an unsigned memorandum that surfaced in October, purportedly asking the Obama administration’s help to curb the military’s influence and avert a possible coup in the wake of the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May.

The case has brought tensions between Pakistan’s military and its civilian leaders to perhaps its highest pitch since Mr. Zardari was elected three years ago. And it may also complicate America’s efforts to bring its relationship with Pakistan out of crisis after the Bin Laden raid and American airstrikes last month that killed 26 on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan. That roiling period of dispute has also strengthened the military’s hand in the country’s affairs.

“The military and civilian leadership are on a collision course,” said Talat Masood, a political analyst and retired lieutenant general.  ….

Read more » The New York Times

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