Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Thursday said conspirators were plotting to bring down his government, giving his most public indication yet that he fears being ousted from power.
He spoke as the Supreme Court met again to decide whether to order a formal inquiry into a secret memo, allegedly written with approval from the president, on seeking American help in curbing the powerful military.
Rampant speculation that President Asif Ali Zardari could be forced to step down over illness and the scandal has refused to die, despite his return this week from treatment in a Dubai hospital.
“I want to make it clear today that conspiracies are being hatched here to pack up the elected government,” Gilani told a gathering at the National Arts Gallery, without naming any names.
“But we will continue to fight for the rights of people of Pakistan whether or not we remain in the government,” Gilani said.
Gilani and Zardari have fended off a series of scandals and calls for the government to resign since they took office after the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) won elections in February 2008.
Although elections are not due before February 2013, many observers expect polls some time in 2012. No civilian leader in Pakistan has ever completed a full term in office.
The military is considered the chief arbitor of power and has ruled the country for more than half its existence, seizing power in four coups although analysts rule out any prospect of another imminent takeover.
“They are a disciplined army and follow the constitution,” Gilani said.
“They are under the government and will remain under the government.”
The prime minister declared himself the country’s longest serving premier, with 45 months on the job.
Pakistan’s former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, this week compounded the pressure on the government by demanding elections within 90 days.
The Supreme Court on Thursday adjourned until Friday a hearing on whether to investigate the memo allegedly written by one of Zardari’s closest advisers to ask for American help over an allegedly feared military coup in May.
Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington, was forced to resign over the scandal and flatly denies the accusations from a US businessman.