ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Friday dismissed rumours that a coup could overthrow the government, saying that unnamed "people" would foil any attempt to dislodge the president.
Malik spoke to reporters outside parliament amid a frenzy of speculation over the health of President Asif Ali Zardari, who has been in a Dubai hospital for three days with a heart condition.
Zardari faces a major scandal over what extent he may have been involved in alleged attempts by his ambassador to Washington – since forced to resign – to seek US help to limit the power of Pakistan's powerful military.
"We understand that the people have given us a mandate for five years through elections and votes, and if someone tried to do something to the government, people would foil such attempts," Malik said.
"The situation is not as complex as you are viewing it," he said in response to a journalist who said the crisis facing the government was serious.
Zardari took office after the centre-left Pakistan People's Party won general elections in February 2008.
If he remains in office until his mandate ends, and polls are held, it would be the first democratic transition of power in Pakistan, where the military has staged four coups and ruled for more than half the country's existence.
An article published on the website of the US magazine Foreign Policy sparked fevered speculation Wednesday that Zardari was on his way out, forcing both Pakistan's presidency and the US State Department to dismiss the rumours.
Pakistan is currently in the midst of perhaps its worst crisis in US relations after NATO air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on November 26.
Zardari was on Thursday moved out of intensive care at Dubai's American Hospital, officials said.
One member of the cabinet told AFP that he had suffered a minor heart attack. There was no immediate confirmation from aides Friday of local press reports that he had suffered a minor stroke.
Malik upset after Karzai blamed Pakistan for Kabul blast
Malik said that he was highly upset after the Afghan President Hamid Karzai blamed Pakistan for the twin blasts at Afghan shrines on the day of Ashura that had killed at least 58 people.
A blast in Kabul and another in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif came a day after an international meeting in Germany was meant to further efforts to end the Afghan war; 10 years after US-led forces drove the Taliban from power.
Later, Karzai had blamed the banned militant outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi for the attack and had demanded justice from the Pakistan government in a move that is likely to ratchet up tensions between the two countries.
Malik reacted to the statement by saying that the Afghan government should talk to the Pakistani government before giving such controversial statements. He also said that being neighbours, Afghanistan should refrain from this blame-game and carry out an inquiry before giving any statement.
Malik said that Pakistan has always been ready to help Afghanistan but that Pakistan had concerns about the five million Afghans who have taken refuge in Pakistan. He said that the Afghan refugees deal in illegal drugs and arms, threatening the security of the host country.
He added that since so much work is being done to restore peace in Afghanistan, something should be done about taking the Afghan refugees back home too.
The interior minister stated that Afghanistan's peace has been of importance to Pakistan but it won't tolerate any more baseless claims in the future. He also insisted that both governments should try working together more often in the future.
Speaking about the current government, Malik said that democracy is very important and that he hoped that whoever from the public and media is against Pakistan Peoples Party will realize that they came into office with the right to rule for five years through fair elections. 'It’s time to think positive and move forward.