Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari told a news anchor he is “fine” and will return home soon, Reuters reported Friday, nearly a week after the president took an unexpected trip to Dubai for medical tests.
Hamid Mir, a popular Pakistani news anchor, says Zardari told him: “I did not want to leave. My children and friends and the prime minister insisted that I go for a checkup.”
The president’s trip has caused much speculation that the unpopular leader could resign or face a coup. Zardari appeared to acknowledge the rumors, saying, according to Mir: “Those that run from the country run with their kids. My son is in Pakistan. I left him there.”
“My enemies will be disappointed,” he said.
Zardari is believed to have suffered a transient ischemic attack (TIA), which can cause stroke-like symptoms but does not inflict lasting damage on the brain. The president has a pre-existing heart condition, and underwent an angioplasty in Dubai in 2005. BBC reports that Zardari had chest pains that led up to his minor heart attack.
Foreign Policy Magazine Tuesday quoted a U.S. official as saying Zardari was “incoherent” during a recent phone call with President Obama, suggesting Zardari could also be cracking under the pressure of conflict with the U.S. Relations between the U.S. and Pakistan reached a new low just before Zardari’s departure, after a cross-border NATO air attack killed 24 soldiers.
The military and general public widely believe the attack was “a pre-planned conspiracy” carried out by the U.S. to punish Pakistan for allowing Islamist militants to operate within its territory and launch attacks within Afghanistan.
The Post’s Simon Denyer reports that the Pakistani army has responded by bolstering air defenses along its Afghan border, including deploying shoulder-to-air missiles, officials said.
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