Pakistan’s Zardari leaves Dubai hospital
By Simon Denyer,
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari was discharged from a Dubai hospital late Wednesday and will continue to recuperate at his home in the Persian Gulf city, his office said, adding that no decision had been made on when he would return to Pakistan.
Zardari’s sudden departure for the United Arab Emirates last week, at a time when he was under intense political pressure, sparked rumors that he was fleeing the country or being forced out by Pakistan’s powerful military.
In his absence, his son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, assumed a more prominent public role, in an apparent attempt to reassure supporters that the family remained in power.
But Zardari, 56, who suffers from heart problems and diabetes, has vowed to return to Pakistan once his health allows.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Zardari had left the country for treatment because of fears of a terrorist attack in a Pakistani hospital. “His family members, the doctor and I urged the president to go to Dubai for medical check-up in view of personal security,” he told members of his party in the northern city of Peshawar, according to a statement.
Doctors did not disclose Zardari’s diagnosis, but a statement from the American Hospital in Dubai, forwarded to the media by the president’s office, said he had experienced “left arm numbness and twitching with a transient episode of loss of consciousness that lasted for a few seconds.” The president was described as fully conscious on arrival at the hospital and displaying normal vital signs. All subsequent tests were “within normal range,” and Zardari was advised to continue with his regular heart medication, the statement said.
Party officials said this week that Zardari might have suffered a transient ischemic attack, a temporary interruption in the blood supply to the brain that causes symptoms similar to a stroke but no lasting damage. Zardari suffered a heart attack in 2005.
Zardari has been under heavy pressure in recent weeks after the disclosure of an unsigned memo in which the government solicited Washington’s help to rein in the Pakistani military and prevent a possible coup in the days after the U.S. raid to kill Osama bin Laden in May.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court is conducting an investigation into the memo and has called on Zardari, as well as the country’s army and intelligence chiefs, to submit a written deposition by Thursday. Husain Haqqani stepped down last month as Pakistan’s envoy to Washington amid accusations that he orchestrated the memo. He has denied involvement.
There has been intense debate in Pakistan over whether Zardari’s prolonged absence is entirely due to his health or is related to the Supreme Court probe.
The president’s departure for Dubai also came a week after a U.S. airstrike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the Afghanistan border. The incident sparked widespread anger here and further strained relations with Washington.
Zardari had planned to address a joint session of Parliament about the raid, but it is unclear whether the address will take place.
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