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Sick Zardari flies to Dubai, fuels resignation rumours
Afzal Khan in Islamabad

How it happened

  Zardari's sudden departure triggered intense speculation with American website ‘The Cable’, a blog of prestigious US magazine 'Foreign Policy', saying that "it is growing expectations inside the US Government that Zardari may be on the way out".

  Zardari had been feeling increased pressure over memogate, centred on a memo sent to a top US official asking for help to rein in the military, which infuriated Army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani

Beleaguered Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari was on Tuesday flown to Dubai after suffering a minor heart attack, triggering intense speculation in the country and abroad about his ability to continue in office.

Zardari, 56, was flown to the Emirates for "an emergency medical check up in a Pakistan Air Force plane equipped with medical devices", Gulf News reported quoting diplomatic sources. Quoting his personal physician Col Salman, the paper said that "Zardari underwent medical tests, linked to a previously diagnosed cardio-vascular condition, including a MRI".

It said Zardari had felt “chest pain” during a meeting with ministers in Pakistan and had decided to come to Dubai as a precaution.

The speculation was so rife that the government issued a statement on Zardari's health status following a meeting between his son, Pakistan People's Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani this afternoon.

"The President went to Dubai following symptoms related to his pre-existing heart condition. After the initial medical tests in Dubai, doctors found him to be in stable condition," said a statement issued by Gilani's office.

Zardari "will remain under observation" and return to Pakistan to "resume his normal functions as advised by the doctors," the statement said without giving details.

Zardari’s fresh heart illness is linked to a previously diagnosed cardiovascular condition for which he had got three stents. Last September, Zardari had travelled to London to undergo an angiography and was reportedly given a clean bill of health.

The episode triggered wild speculation, with a foreign magazine even stating that he may resign, sending shock waves within the ruling coalition, particularly the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) because of the central position the President enjoys as party head, besides remaining the fountain of power even after adoption of the 18th Amendment. The speculation also exposed the fragility of the existing civilian order, which is facing a seemingly unending barrage of challenges.

Conflicting government response to media reports enormously added to the confusion. A junior minister, who had nothing to do with presidential affairs, came out with a flimsy explanation and told reporters that the President would return to Islamabad on Thursday.

The irrepressible Interior Minister, Rehman Malik came out with his own version that only revealed the serious nature of the President’s ailment.

Prime Minister Gilani characteristically tried to repudiate reports that the President was facing a serious health condition. He claimed that Zardari’s children had compelled him to travel to Dubai for a medical check-up.

There is no denying the fact that Zardari has been under tremendous strain for some time and could have seriously impacted his health. Within the PPP, Dr Zulfiqar Mirza’s semi-revolt has been a testy development challenging the party’s unassailable sway in Sindh.

The civil-military relationship has been uneven and far from being normal. A chain of events starting from the Raymond Davis affair and the US strike in Abbotabad that killed Osama bin Laden brought new strains in Pak-US ties.

Then came memogate that brought into the open the underlying fissures between the military and civil. The judiciary has also jumped in adding more worries to this faltering relationship.

(With PTI inputs)





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