Pakistan's Prime Minister telephoned the British high commissioner this week expressing fears that the army might be about to stage a coup, a British official and an official in Islamabad said yesterday.
The call, which one official said was "panicky", suggests genuine fear in the Pakistani government that the army might support possible moves by the Supreme Court to topple the civilian leadership.
The Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, asked the high commissioner, Adam Thomson, for Britain to support his embattled regime, according to the officials. The Pakistani and British governments denied the report. Such is the weakness of state institutions, that Pakistani leaders have often looked to foreign powers, especially the US and Gulf countries, to intervene in domestic affairs and mediate disputes.
The army has staged four coups in Pakistan's history and is believed to consider itself the only true custodian of the country's interests. It has never liked the civilian government headed by Mr Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari. But a scandal that erupted late last year over an unsigned memo sent to Washington asking for its help in heading off a supposed coup following the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden, has brought the army and civilian government into near-open confrontation.