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But the government may be concerned that the court may question the president’s immunity if Mr. Gilani agrees to write the letter because of bad blood between Mr. Zardari and Chief Justice Iftikar Mohammad Chaudry.

M. Zardari refused to reinstate Mr. Chaudry for many months after he was fired by the former president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, despite having promised to do so. He eventually was forced to relent after public demonstrations.

The government’s goal seems to be to survive through at least the summer, when it would finish the next annual budget. That would allow the ruling Pakistan People’s Party to funnel dollars to the right places to improve its chances in national elections, which are scheduled for 2013 but which many expect could be called early in the fall.

Some government supporters have accused the Supreme Court of acting on behalf of the army to oust Mr. Zardari. No evidence has surfaced to support that allegation, and the court has hounded the military as well.

The court had ordered the country’s most powerful spy service, the ISI, to produce seven suspected militants before the judges on Monday. The suspects have been held by ISI and another military intelligence agency without charges since 2010.

The order was in response to petitions from the families of the men, who had been looking for them. The relatives claim the men were held in harsh conditions with very little food or water.

Two of the suspects appeared in poor health, with one of them forced to use a urine bag. Four other men who were picked up with the seven died under mysterious circumstances.

The court gave the spy agencies until March 1 to submit a report, said Pakistan‘s attorney general, Anwarul Haq. It also instructed officials to arrange medical checkups for the suspects.

The case could have wide-ranging repercussions because the security services are alleged to have picked up hundreds of people over the years and held them without charges.

However, it is unclear if the Supreme Court has the power to hold the army — the strongest institution in the country — to account.

Associated Press writer Zarar Khan contributed to this report.