Facing "the most intense pressure from the powerful military since a 1999 coup," President Asif Ali Zardari returned to Pakistan on Friday from UAE.
Zardari's ruling party has drafted a confidence motion pledging "full confidence and trust" in the political leadership — to be put to the parliament Monday — that is aimed, The New York Times wrote, at bolstering the nation’s civilian leadership.
After the resolution was introduced Friday, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani declared: "Either there will be a democracy or dictatorship."
According to The Times, Gilani on Wednesday fired Defense Secretary Khalid Naeem Lodhi, a confidant of the army chief, accusing him of misconduct.
There was also a disputed memo allegedly from Zardari's government seeking US help in reining in the generals.
And the Associated Press reported this week that Zardari made a "panicky" telephone call to the top British diplomat in the country, expressing fears that the Pakistani army might be about to stage a coup.
And after Zardari left on his surprise trip "to attend the wedding of a son of a friend" in Dubai, the president's spokesman told The Times, Pakistan media reported that military chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani had met with top commanders.
The military on Friday issued a "strong statement warning Gilani that recent criticism of the chiefs of the army and intelligence service would have 'serious ramifications with potentially grievous consequences for the country.'”
The military has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 64-year history through a series of coups, Britain's Daily Telegraph wrote.
Xinhua, meantime, wrote that Pakistan's main opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, had called for early elections.
Zardari maintains a residence in Dubai and visited there on Dec. 6 for medical treatment, setting off speculation about his political future, The Times reported, adding that: "Many were surprised by his return to Pakistan later in the month."
Zardari's administration has been criticized for ineptness, poor governance and alleged corruption.
Tensions between the country's military and civilian leadership have reportedly intensified since the American operation in Pakistan in May that killed Osama bin Laden.
The Telegraph wrote that:
The latest crisis also troubles Washington, which wants smooth ties between civilian and military leaders so that Pakistan can help efforts to stabilize neighboring Afghanistan, a top priority for President Barack Obama.