COAS General Kayani has exercised the option of taking his complaint about Prime Minister Gilani to President Zardari, who is ex officio the Supreme Commander of the armed forces. The Prime Minister had said that the COAS and the DG ISI had given statements to the Supreme Court in contravention of the law and rules. General Kayani clearly found this embarrassing, especially since it was made to a Chinese TV channel at a time when he was in China. Another statement General Kayani is said to have brought up is that of Punjab Governor Latif Khosa. The President gave the COAS, who asked for the President to direct that these remarks be withdrawn or clarified, a patient and sympathetic hearing. To the extent of the current crisis, matters seem to have been resolved, and the nation can rest easy once again.

At the same time, it should be kept in mind that the Prime Minister is nothing if not completely obedient to the President, to whom he owes his job. The COAS will be aware of this, and will know the value of his complaint. At the same time, the President must be aware that not only has the COAS complained, but the Supreme Court, in its recent judgment on the NRO case, has also criticized Mr Gilani, to the extent of expressing doubt about his fitness for office. In such a situation, the President must direct the Prime Minister to prepare the nation for fresh elections. This would help the President distance himself from the Prime Minister and help him deny any involvement in his actions, as well as setting in course general elections which are the demand of the public.

The President’s meeting with the COAS preceded a DCC meeting, which took the important decision of continuing the ban on NATO supplies through Pakistan. The situation demands that the government’s head maintain a close relationship with the service chiefs. The ball is in the President’s court. He has received public assurance of the complete backing of the armed forces for democracy. Pakistan faces enough external challenges and would do well to avoid any internal wrangling. It is a symptom of the incompetence of the present government that it is making such a spectacle of itself. Now that the COAS has gone to him, the President must act.