Beleaguered Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari’s hospitalisation in Dubai on Tuesday evening fuelled rumours about a coup or a possible resignation in light of the recent strain in civil-military relations over the 'memogate’ controversy.
A statement put out by the Prime Minister’s office on Wednesday afternoon somewhat put a stop to the rumours as it clearly said that he would return to resume his normal functions as advised by the doctors. Also, reports from Dubai suggested that he was meeting members of the United Arab Emirates government including the Prime Minister and Pakistan People’s Party supporters in the hospital.
Through the previous night and all morning, rumours thickened as they spread though the President’s office had announced his departure for Dubai for routine medical examination on Tuesday afternoon. What particularly added fuel to the speculation was a report in the Foreign Policy magazine titled: 'President Zardari suddenly leaves Pakistan – is he on the way out?’
The report quoted an unnamed former U.S. government official as stating that Mr. Zardari had sounded incoherent when President Barack Obama spoke to him on Sunday night. The magazine also claimed that Mr. Zardari had suffered a minor heart attack on Monday night and was taken to Dubai in an air ambulance.
The speculations ranged from the omnipresent military coup to the President being eased out and the hospitalisation being used as a means to leave the country with the presidential immunity he enjoys. The rumour mongering began to ease only after the President’s son and PPP chairman, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, met Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani.
Mr. Bhutto-Zardari’s presence in the Capital was seen as a statement that all was in order. Had there been even a hint of coup, the general reasoning was that he would not be in the country.
According to the Prime Minister’s office, the President had gone 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. The President went to Dubai at the insistence of his children. The doctors have yet to determine whether [the] President’s condition was due to adverse reaction to the medication he was taking or a development related to his pre-existing cardiac condition."
This is not the first time that Mr. Zardari has gone overseas for medical treatment but coming as it does in the wake of growing tensions between the civil and military leadership of the country and talk of a possible change of guard, his departure at this juncture was grist to the rumour mill in a nation prone to conspiracy theories.