Pakistan's prime minister has appealed for support from parliament in a stand-off between his beleaguered government and the armed forces, saying MPs have to choose between "democracy and dictatorship".
Tensions between Pakistan's army and government have soared in recent days over a memo sent to Washington, raising fears that the army might stage a coup or support possible moves by the Supreme Court to oust the government.
The party of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari is the largest in the ruling coalition.
Opposition parties also have spoken out against any military takeover, but they would likely support early elections as a way out of the crisis. Gilani hinted the government was considering early polls, saying "we will go to the masses if the situation worsens".
He said parliament must choose between "democracy or dictatorship".
Elections are due in around one year's time, but Zardari aides have said the government will not step down before Senate polls scheduled for March.
That vote is carried out by MPs and is expected to give Zardari's Pakistan People's Party a majority in the upper house, giving it significant political power for the next six years.
The army has staged four coups and considers itself the true custodian of the country's interests.
The military and the government have been locked in a stand-off for months, but a scandal that erupted late last year after an unsigned memo was sent to Washington asking for its help in heading off a supposed coup has caused tensions to spike.