Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari had a minor heart attack and is undergoing treatment in a Dubai hospital, a source said yesterday, fueling rumors he may resign.
Zardari’s office, however, said, he was in hospital for routine tests. It said a Web news report, which triggered much of the speculation, was untrue.
Financial markets were unaffected by the rumors.
“President Asif Ali Zardari is in a Dubai hospital for medical tests and checkup as planned,” presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.
“Reports in some sections of the media speculating on the president’s activities and engagements are speculative, imaginary and untrue,” he said.
However, a Pakistani source in Dubai familiar with the president’s condition said that Zardari had suffered a minor heart attack.
“Two days ago, he had chest pain” and decided to go to Dubai, the source said.
Six years ago, Zardari had also had a minor heart attack, the source said.
“Since then, he has been on medication,” the source said.
A Dubai-based member of Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party, Mian Muneer Hans, said the president landed in Dubai at about 7:30pm on Tuesday.
“He walked to his car in the airport and was not on any ambulance,” said Hans, adding that he was accompanied by his doctor and Pakistani Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Asim Hussain.
Zardari was taken straight to the American Hospital in Dubai, Hans said.
“He’s taking rest in the hospital now. He may be there for two to three days,” he added.
American Hospital CEO Thomas Murray, contacted by Reuters, declined to comment on the reports.
Hans, however, said the medical visit was “a routine check for his heart.”
The rumors about his health and possible resignation swirled on Twitter and other social media.
“Some elements blew up this to create unrest in the country,” said Fauzia Wahab, a senior member of Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party. “His visit to Dubai and having a medical check up is perfectly normal.”
Pakistan’s civilian government has been under extreme pressure in recent weeks following the resignation of its ambassador to Washington over an alleged memo to the Pentagon asking for help in forestalling a feared coup attempt in May.
Tension between the government and military have bedeviled the nuclear-armed South Asian country for most of its existence, with the military ruling the country for more than half of its 64-year history after a series of coups.
Relations with the US have been rocked by a year of bust-ups. First there was the jailing of a CIA contractor for shooting dead two Pakistanis in the city of Lahore. Then there was the secret US commando raid inside Pakistan that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and then came US accusations that Pakistan was involved in attacks on US targets in Afghanistan. It was further rocked by a Nov. 26 NATO strike on two Pakistani border posts that killed 24 soldiers, infuriating the country’s powerful military.