DUBAI // The president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, has undergone a “routine evaluation” of his health in a Dubai hospital after complaining of chest pains during a meeting, according to government officials who described his condition as “stable”.
Mr Zardari’s arrival at the American Hospital Dubai late on Tuesday evening sparked rumours that he might resign on health grounds, but these were swiftly dismissed by Pakistani government officials and members of Mr Zardari’s ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
“A routine evaluation of President Asif Ali Zardari’s health is being carried out,” said the Pakistan Consulate in Dubai.
“Investigations done so far are essentially within normal limits and the president’s condition is stable.”
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President, and Ruler of Dubai, visited Mr Zardari in hospital yesterday accompanied by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the Crown Prince of Dubai. They wished him a speedy recovery and continued wellness, according to the state news agency, Wam.
Confusion over the seriousness of Mr Zardari’s health problems surfaced when Mustafa Khokhar, the minister in charge of human rights, told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency that the president had suffered a “minor heart attack”.
Mr Khokhar also said Mr Zardari had undergone an operation in Dubai, but was expected to return to Islamabad today.
“He had a minor heart attack on Tuesday,” Mr Khokhar told AFP. “He flew to Dubai where he had an angioplasty. He’s in good health now. He will come back tomorrow. There’s no question of any resignation.”
But Mr Zardari’s spokesman in Pakistan, Farhatullah Babar, denied reports of a heart attack as “speculative, imaginary and untrue”.
Yesterday, Rashid Chughtai, the president of the PPP in Dubai, visited Mr Zardari in hospital and said the 56-year-old president was “looking fine”.
“He’s had all the tests like MRI done and everything checked out fine,” Mr Chughtai said. “He was asleep when I saw him but the doctors say he needs maybe one or two days of rest. I’m not sure if he will stay at his home in Dubai or in hospital. It just depends on what the doctors say.”
He said Mr Zardari had felt a chest pain during a meeting with ministers in Pakistan, and that he decided to come to Dubai as a precaution. Mr Zardari has a home in Emirates Hills.
In Pakistan, rumours continued to swirl, but PPP officials played down his absence.
They stressed that Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of the president and the chairman of the PPP, was in Islamabad, indicating that no major political upheaval was taking place.
“Bilawal has been in town since the day before yesterday,” Sheikh Mansur Ahmed, a PPP official, said.
Mr Ahmed said the president had no plans to tender his resignation. He said Mr Zardari would undergo angioplasty – a procedure used to widen a narrow or obstructed blood vessel – and was expected to return to Islamabad in the next two to three days.
“Some people are reading too much into President Zardari’s private visit to Dubai,” said Fauzia Wahab, a PPP member of the national assembly. “President Zardari has gone for a regular check-up. There is no need to be conspiratorial about it.”
Ms Wahab criticised Foreign Policy’s Cable blog for claiming that Mr Zardari was being forced out of power, and said it had given rise to unwarranted speculation. “It was purely speculative,” she said. “I do not know what the purpose is of publishing such an article.”
A PPP party official said party members had advised Mr Zardari to go abroad for medical care much earlier, but he had stayed on due to his busy schedule.
Pakistan state newswires reported that Bilawal Bhutto Zardari met the prime minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani at the prime minister’s house yesterday. “The president went to Dubai following symptoms related to his pre-existing heart condition,” the Pakistani government said yesterday. “After the initial medical tests in Dubai, doctors found him to be in stable condition.”
It said the president had come to Dubai on the insistence of his children. “The doctors have yet to determine whether the president’s condition was caused by an adverse reaction to the medication he was taking or a development related to his pre-existing cardiac condition.”
Mr Zardari would return to resume his normal functions as advised by doctors, it added.
*With additional reporting by Salman Masood in Pakistan