Omar Waraich: Gilani faces fight of his life to survive this onslaught

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The Independent Online

A vote reaffirming faith in democracy would seem odd in any parliament. But in Pakistan it underscored the fragility of the ruling coalition after the Prime Minister was summoned to the Supreme Court to face contempt proceedings.

For the past few weeks, as simmering tensions have risen to a boil, Yousaf Raza Gilani has been nimbly fending off challenges on multiple fronts from a strident opposition, a hostile judiciary and a powerful military. Winning the vote of confidence yesterday was Mr Gilani's latest gambit in a complex power game that has seen him resist pressure from Pakistan's judges even as he has traded blows with the country's powerful generals.

The Supreme Court is pressing him to reactivate corruption charges in Swiss courts against his boss, President Asif Ali Zardari, while at the same time, the judges look into claims that the government dispatched an unsigned memo calling on the US military to help stave off a coup after the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

For several months now, the government has refused to cooperate with what it sees as a partisan Supreme Court. The stand-off could now, some observers speculate, see Mr Gilani lose the prime ministerial slot.

The government fears that its years in power are being drawn to an end under these multiple pressures. It denies any role in the "memogate" affair, a scandal that has drawn the ire of the army, forcing an open clash.

Last week, Mr Gilani accused the army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and his intelligence head of acting "illegally" and "unconstitutionally". The generals struck back, warning of "potentially grievous consequences". Rumours of an impending coup began to spread.

But it is unlikely General Kayani desires power for himself. The signs are, however, that he has lost patience with the current crop of civilians.

Mr Gilani's challenge now will be to hold on to his majority in parliament, steer it past the senate elections in March, where he is poised to win, and call general elections in the autumn. But the odds are stacked against him.