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Lawmakers loyal to the government also introduced a resolution in parliament expressing support for Gilani’s Cabinet, a move that would give it a symbolic boost. The resolution, which will be put to a vote on Monday, pledges “full confidence and trust” in the political leadership and says all state institutions must act within limits imposed by the constitution — an apparent rebuke to the military for crossing into politics.

Zardari traveled last month to Dubai for medical reasons, triggering widely reported rumors he was on the verge of resigning. On Thursday he traveled to the same city, citing ‘personal reasons’, returning early Friday, said spokesman Farhatullah Babar.

Asked whether Zardari was concerned about his political future, Babar said, “Absolutely not. Why should he be? He is comfortable and perfectly all right.”

The nuclear-armed country is facing a host of problems, among them near economic collapse and a virulent al-Qaida- and Taliban-led insurgency. The fight against the militant has been complicated by allegations that the country’s main Inter-Services Intelligence is supporting some of the insurgents.

On Friday, a government-appointed commission investigating the unsolved murder of a journalist last year said that the ISI needed to be more “law-abiding.” The report did not find enough evidence to name any perpetrators in the death of Saleem Shahzad, who was killed after he told friends he had been threatened by the ISI.

The commission called on the ISI to be made more accountable to the government through internal reviews and oversight by parliament. It said its interactions with reporters should be closely monitored.

Also Friday, militants assaulted a police station in the northwestern city of Peshawar, shooting dead three officers and wounding nine others, said police officer Saeed Khan.

The Pakistani Taliban have carried out hundreds of attacks on the country's army and other security forces since 2007. The attack came a day after militants armed with guns and grenades killed four Pakistani soldiers in an ambush in the South Waziristan tribal area.


Kathy Gannon in Islamabad and Paisley Dodds in London contributed to this report.