With his government embroiled in controversy over a memo that many in Pakistan view as potentially treasonous, President Asif Ali Zardari's sudden departure for medical treatment in Dubai has "people [here] questioning the timing" and wondering if Zardari might be about to step down, NPR's Corey Flintoff reported this morning from Islamabad.
As Corey told Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep, Zardari's office has confirmed that he has flown to Dubai for treatment. "He has been treated for a heart condition in the past, so that part of the story is plausible," Corey said. "But what people here are questioning is the timing. The president had said that he would appear before a joint session of parliament to answer questions about [the] memo scandal."
The memo scandal, as we've reported, is about a message the Zardari government reportedly tried to get to U.S. military officials in the days after the May 2 killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces who raided the al-Qaida leader's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The message purportedly asked the U.S. for help in averting a potential military coup by officers angry about the way the U.S. was able to conduct the raid without the knowledge of Pakistani generals.
Pakistani officials are denying that Zardari, 56, is about to resign. "He had a minor heart attack on Tuesday. He flew to Dubai where he had an angioplasty. He's in good health now," Mustafa Khokhar, a Pakistani cabinet official told Agence France Presse. "There's no question of any resignation," he added, Pakistan's Dawn newpaper says.
The BBC notes, though, that "there has been rampant speculation in the Pakistani media that he may be about to resign on the pretext of 'ill health' in the wake of the memo scandal.
As MSNBC reports, Zardari's trip has fueled rumors about a "silent coup."