Is Pakistani president on the way out?
President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan suddenly left the country after suffering "heart pains" and is currently in Dubai seeking treatment.
Of course, it couldn't be that he was about to give a speech before Parliament on a scandal involving a memo that called for the overthrow of the Pakistani military leadership with US help, could it?
Josh Rogin wonders if Zardari is on the way out
On Dec. 4, Zardari announced that he would address Pakistan's parliament about the Memogate issue, in which his former ambassador to Washington Husain Haqqani stands accused of orchestrating a scheme to take power away from Pakistan's senior military and intelligence leadership and asking for U.S. help in preventing a military coup. Haqqani has denied that he wrote the memo at the heart of the scheme, which also asked for U.S. support for the Zardari government and promised to realign Pakistani foreign policy to match U.S. interests.
The memo was passed from Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz to former National Security Advisor Jim Jones, to then Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen on May 10, only nine days after U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani military town of Abbottabad.
Ijaz has repeatedly accused Haqqani of being behind the memo, and Ijaz claims that Haqqani was working with Zardari's implicit support.
Early on Tuesday morning, Zardari's spokesman revealed that the president had traveled to Dubai to see his children and undergo medical tests linked to a previously diagnosed "cardiovascular condition."
A former U.S. government official told The Cable today that when President Barack Obama spoke with Zardari over the weekend regarding NATO's killing of the 24 Pakistani soldiers, Zardari was "incoherent." The Pakistani president had been feeling increased pressure over the Memogate scandal. "The noose was getting tighter -- it was only a matter of time," the former official said, expressing the growing expectation inside the U.S. government that Zardari may be on the way out.
Understandably, the military is livid about the memo and wants Zardari gone. They wouldn't go as far as sponsoring a coup against the civilian government, but their power is such that they could force the president from office if they chose to show their hand.
But Zardari still appears to have the support of his party which may save his job - for a while. The scandal involving the memo, if it gets any worse, may make his continued tenure a short one.