Asif Ali Zardari is in a Dubai hospital after reportedly suffering a heart attack this week, leading to wild speculation about his true condition and questions about who is really in charge in Pakistan right now. The official word from the president's office is that he is simply undergoing routine tests, but there are rumors that his ill health could be a pretext for his resignation or part of a "stealth" coup by the military, who want him out.
Zardari suffered a heart attack six years ago and has been treated for his heart problems since then. According to some sources, he experienced chest pains on Monday and decided to fly to Dubai for treatment, though no one seems entirely sure what exactly his condition is at the moment. The BBC has reports that he is "unwell" while Reuters was told that he walked to the airport and is generally fine. Meanwhile, Foreign Policy reported that a U.S. official said Zardari was "incoherent" during a phone call with President Obama this weekend, suggesting that he is cracking under the pressure of scandals and conflicts with the U.S. government.
The president has been under fire since May when U.S. troops killed Osama bin Laden in Abottabad, followed by Zardari sending a memo to the Admiral Mike Mullen, asking for American help to prevent a coup. A NATO raid last month that may have violated Pakistan's border and killed 24 soldiers, has only heightened the tension between Zardari, the Pakistani military, and the United States.
The Foreign Policy report suggests that Zardari could step down and be replaced by another member of his party, keeping the country in civilian hands while still appeasing the military. However, the president's people insist that's not true and remind everyone that "rumors of a silent coup are sometimes a way of trying to effect a silent coup." That's true, but unfortunately for Zardari, sometimes that tactic works. Fighting off coup rumors is never a good situation to be in, particularly when you're not even in your own country to fight them. Coup or no coup, Zardari's situation is definitely precarious.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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