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Unwell Zardari suddenly leaves Pakistan, may quit

Islamabad: Had he suffered a heart attack or had he just gone for a medical check-up? Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari’s abrupt departure for Dubai led to massive speculation Wednesday with various contradictory reports, including one from the US stating that he may even quit.

The official line was that he had gone to Dubai for medical tests and also to meet his children, but army doctors who carried out a medical check declared him fit. A US magazine also quoted a former American official as saying the president had a minor heart attack and may resign.

Zardari abruptly flew out of Pakistan Tuesday, leading to much confusion. Sources close to the president rubbished reports that he was going to resign and said he was going to come back after the medical check-up.

Pakistan’s official news agency Associated Press of Pakistan reported that Zardari Tuesday evening left for Dubai to visit his children and also to undergo some medical tests.
The president’s personal physician Col Salman said the proposed medical tests were of routine nature and linked to a previously diagnosed cardiovascular condition.

Though the News International said doctors from the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) found Zardari completely fit after a check-up, the president’s spokesperson Farhatullah Babar denied the report.

Adding a new dimension, the US-based Foreign Policy magazine quoted a former American official as saying that parts of the US government were informed that Zardari had a “minor heart attack” Monday night. He had flown to Dubai via an air ambulance. Zardari may have to undergo an angioplasty procedure Wednesday and may also resign on account of “ill health”, the media report said.

The ex-official noted the growing expectation inside the US government that Zardari may be on the way out, reported Foreign Policy. The former US government official told the website that Zardari was “incoherent” when President Barack Obama spoke with him regarding Nov 26 NATO’s killing of two dozen Pakistani soldiers.

Zardari had planned to address a joint session of Pakistan’s parliament on a controversy over a memo to Washington that claimed he feared a military coup after the May 2 commando operation to kill Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Zardari has been under tremendous pressure since the memo came to light.
“The noose was getting tighter — it was only a matter of time,” the former official was quoted as saying. Geo News quoted sources as saying that the US magazine report was baseless. The sources maintained that the president was not going to resign and that he would return after the medical check up.

In September, Zardari underwent an angiography at a hospital in Britain where doctors gave him a clean bill of health. Two surgeons from the US too were involved in the medical check-ups along with the British doctors.

Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council, in a Tuesday interview said a plan would see Zardari step aside. Nawaz said: “Unfortunately, it means that the military may have had to use its muscle to effect change yet again.”

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