Pakistan PM Gilani Faces Confidence Vote Amid Crisis

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is to face a vote of confidence in parliament amid a deepening political crisis with the military.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is to face a vote of confidence in parliament amid a deepening political crisis with the military.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani gestures during an interview with The Associated Press at his residence in Lahore, Pakistan, Monday, Dec. 5, 2011. Gilani says his country wants to rebuild ties with the United States despite Islamabad's ongoing retaliation for deadly airstrikes on its troops by the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan.

The vote will take place on Monday, the same day as a Supreme Court deadline for the government to reopen corruption cases against political figures.

The deadline was set after the court quashed an amnesty for politicians, including President Asif Ali Zardari.

Mr Zardari is back in Pakistan after a brief visit to Dubai.

His departure on Thursday fuelled rumours as recent tensions between the government and the armed forces have raised fears for the stability of Pakistan, which has a history of military coups.

But officials said he was there to attend a wedding. Mr Zardari had heart treatment in Dubai last month.

'Dramatic and defiant'

Analysts say that Prime Minister Gilani is likely to secure Monday's vote of confidence, and obtaining parliament's seal of approval is likely to strengthen his hand.

The BBC's Aleem Maqbool in Islamabad says that the prime minister's speech, coming at a time many are predicting his government could be brought down, was dramatic and defiant.

He told MPs that he was not going to beg to be rescued, but said that anyone who had a hand in removing his government would be setting back democracy in Pakistan.

Our correspondent says Mr Gilani is relying on that message to save him in Monday's vote.

The stand-off with the military escalated earlier this week when the military publicly rebuked Mr Gilani on Wednesday, warning of "serious ramifications with potentially grievous consequences" after he criticised military leaders in a media interview.

Mr Gilani also sacked his defence secretary, who is seen as having close ties to the military, in a move likely to heighten frictions with military leaders.

But in a move seen by analysts as a sign of easing tensions, Mr Gilani called a meeting of the cabinet's defence committee for Saturday.

This will be the first time civilian and military officials will meet face-to-face since the latest crisis erupted. They are likely to discuss last year's Nato attack on a Pakistani border post.

But relations between the government and the military have been in freefall for many weeks.

Last month Mr Gilani said conspirators were plotting to bring down his government, without specifically blaming the military. That prompted the army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani to dismiss coup rumours.

At the heart of the rift is an anonymous memo which sought US help to avert a possible military coup in Pakistan following the killing by US forces of al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in May.

It is not clear who wrote the memo or conveyed it to the Americans. They say they received it but took no action. Pakistan's Supreme Court is investigating.

Pakistan's military - deeply humiliated by the discovery of Bin Laden on Pakistani soil and the secret US operation to kill him - has been incensed by the affair.

The scandal has already cost Pakistan's former ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani, his job. He denies any role in the memo, as does President Zardari.

Mr Zardari could be forced to quit if the trail is found to lead to his door.

The government is also on a collision course with the judiciary, which wants to reopen old corruption cases in which the president argues he is innocent.