Gilani ups the stakes in standoff with military

Pakistan’s prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told members of parliament yesterday that they faced a choice between “democracy and dictatorship” in a standoff with the armed forces.

Tensions soared in recent days over a memo sent to Washington, raising fears that the army might stage a coup or support possible moves by the Supreme Court to oust the government.

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Opposition parties also have spoken out against any military takeover, but they would likely support early elections as a way out of the crisis.

Mr Gilani hinted the government was considering early polls, saying “we will go to the masses if the situation worsens”.

Yesterday two officials – one in Britain and one in Pakistan – said Mr Gilani had expressed fears to British diplomats that the army might be about to stage a coup. However, the British Foreign Office and Mr Gilani’s office denied this.

Mr Gilani also asked High Commissioner Adam Thomson for Britain to support his embattled government, according to the unnamed officials.