Pakistan's beleaguered Prime Minister on Sunday defiantly rejected the Army's demand that he retract his criticism of the military, a day ahead of the crucial Supreme Court hearing relating to graft cases which could have a decisive bearing on the current crisis gripping the nation.
"I will not answer to any individual as I am answerable to Parliament," Yousuf Raza Gilani told journalists in the backdrop of reports that the powerful Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had told President Asif Ali Zardari to ask the prime minister clarify or retract his criticism of the Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence.
Gilani denied reports that Zardari had sought an explanation or asked him to retract his remarks about the army and intelligence chiefs acting in an "unconstitutional and illegal" manner while filing affidavits on the memo issue in the Supreme Court.
"I am definitely answerable as Article 91 of the Constitution states the prime minister, ministers and ministers of state are answerable to parliament. If anyone has any complaints, I will not answer to any individual as I am answerable to Parliament," he said.
"Whenever Parliament wants, I can present my viewpoint before Parliament," Gilani said.
Tensions between the government and the military reached a peak last week after Gilani said the army and intelligence chiefs had acted in an "unconstitutional and illegal" manner by filing affidavits on the memo issue in the Supreme Court without getting the government's approval.
The military rebuked Gilani, saying his remarks could have "grievous consequences". Gilani retaliated the same day by sacking Defence Secretary Lt Gen (retired) Khalid Naeem Lodhi, a confidant of Kayani, saying he had created misunderstandings over the memo issue.
A 17-member bench of the apex court will resume hearing of a case on reopening of corruption cases that were closed under the National Reconciliation Ordinance, a graft amnesty issued by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in 2007.
A judicial commission appointed by the Supreme Court to investigate a mysterious memo that sought US help to reign in the army and prevent a military coup in Pakistan last year will also continue its proceedings tomorrow. The memo had pitted the Army and the civilian government and triggered the current crisis.
The apex court accepted Kayani's request for a probe into the memo scandal while rejecting the government's contention that the issue should be investigated by a parliamentary panel.
The National Assembly or lower house of parliament is also expected to vote tomorrow on a resolution that seeks endorsement and support for "efforts made by the political leadership for strengthening democracy" and calls for reposing "full confidence and trust" in the leadership.
Raza Rumi, a leading Pakistani columnist, said the elected executive and unelected institutions had "entered into a logjam".
He told PTI: "The Parliament will debate a loosely worded resolution on constitutional governance while the Supreme
Court will hear two important cases that can potentially endanger the future of the civilian government".
Rumi noted that the military had reportedly decided to back the apex court. "Clearly, the civilians have gained some ground as the military, despite its power, has refrained from launching a coup," he said.
The apex court has been building pressure on the government since it struck down the NRO, which benefited President Zardari and 8,000 others, in 2009.
It has pressured the government to write to Swiss authorities to reopen cases of alleged money laundering against Zardari but the government has refused to do so, saying the President enjoys immunity under the Constitution.
Zardari himself has said that the government will not approach the Swiss authorities as long as he is in office as such a move would be tantamount to putting on trial the grave of his wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto, who too had benefited from the NRO.
However, the Supreme Court warned last week that the premier could be disqualified and that action could also be taken against the President if the government kept defying its orders on the NRO issue.
Some of the ruling Pakistan People's Party's allies and even top leaders of the party like former minister Aitzaz Ahsan have suggested that the government could deflect some of the pressure on it by writing to the Swiss authorities to reopen the cases.
Ahsan said on Saturday that such a move would not affect the President, as he enjoys immunity even outside Pakistan under the Vienna Conventions.
The resolution seeking support for democracy was moved in Parliament on Friday by the Awami National Party, a key ally of the PPP, and other several partners of the PPP, like the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and PML-Q, have announced they will back it.
Analysts believe the ruling coalition will be able to push the resolution through though the House could witness a heated debate on the issue, given the main opposition PML-N's intention to take on what it perceives as a weakened PPP.
The PML-N has already held consultations with other opposition parties like the Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam on putting pressure on Zardari to quit and pave the way for an early general election.
Columnist Raza Rumi suggested that state institutions needed to find a way to work together.
"The best option for all players is to work out a formula on power-sharing where the elected and the unelected arms of the state can coexist within their respective constitutional jurisdictions," he added.