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Zardari confidant: Zardari won’t resign

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari suffered a "cardiac episode," but will return to Pakistan after a few days and will not resign as head of state, one of his close advisors told The Cable today. After The Cable reported Tuesday that Zardari left his country for Dubai and might not return, Zardari’s associates and allies ...

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari suffered a "cardiac episode," but will return to Pakistan after a few days and will not resign as head of state, one of his close advisors told The Cable today.

After The Cable reported Tuesday that Zardari left his country for Dubai and might not return, Zardari's associates and allies pushed back hard and insisted that the president has no intention of stepping down. Zardari's spokesman Farhatullah Babar said Wednesday, "All these media reports are totally speculative. The president is in a hospital in Dubai for medical tests and a check-up as already planned." Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) MP Shazia Marri reportedly called Foreign Policy magazine a "two pennies rag."

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari suffered a "cardiac episode," but will return to Pakistan after a few days and will not resign as head of state, one of his close advisors told The Cable today.

After The Cable reported Tuesday that Zardari left his country for Dubai and might not return, Zardari’s associates and allies pushed back hard and insisted that the president has no intention of stepping down. Zardari’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar said Wednesday, "All these media reports are totally speculative. The president is in a hospital in Dubai for medical tests and a check-up as already planned." Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) MP Shazia Marri reportedly called Foreign Policy magazine a "two pennies rag."

A close advisor to Zardari called The Cable from Islamabad Wednesday to insist that not only will the president return to Pakistan, his allies in the government and within the PPP are working behind the scenes now to ensure that Zardari will return with the same stature and power he had before he left the country.

The advisor said Zardari will return to Islamabad after a "few days," and still plans to address a joint session of parliament to speak about the "Memogate" scandal that has embroiled his government and resulted in the resignation of Pakistan’s envoy to Washington, Husain Haqqani.

"This is going to be another classic Pakistani episode of crisis, crescendo, negotiation, and then moving forward," the advisor said, saying that a core group of Zardari supporters are working with Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani to take "stabilizing actions" over the next 48 to 72 hours to quell the uproar and uncertainty surrounding the president’s sudden departure from Pakistan.

Gilani was set to meet with Pakistani military leaders Wednesday as part of this effort, the advisor said, along with Zardari’s son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the 23-year-old chairman of the PPP.

According to the advisor, Zardari, who has diabetes and high blood pressure, had been in pain for three days and had a "cardiac episode" that caused him to physically slump over — an explanation for the Dubai trip that contradicted Babar’s claims that it was pre-planned. "It was not a heart attack and he’s perfectly fine," the advisor insisted.

Zardari had initially resisted going to the hospital out of concern that he would be perceived as weak, but eventually decided to go, the advisor said. Some of the tests performed on Zardari Tuesday in Dubai deemed he was fine, others were inconclusive.

But Zardari’s health issues were not the reason he sounded "incoherent" during his weekend phone call with U.S. President Barack Obama, as The Cable reported Tuesday, according to the advisor – rather, Zardari’s use of language, his words choices, and his accent made him difficult for Obama to understand.

"It was more of a syntax problem than an incoherence problem," the advisor said.

In Pakistan, where murky politics is the rule rather than the exception, Zardari’s many political opponents are seizing on the rumors that he is on the way out to build pressure on him to leave, the advisor said, adding that Zardari is not one to quit and that there is no political will for impeachment or an outright coup.

"The president’s health is fine, and he will be back," the advisor said.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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