KARACHI: The president’s arrival prompted almost as much confusion as his departure.
Protocol was in place for a landing in Islamabad and Karachi, but ultimately President Asif Zardari arrived back in Karachi, where top Pakistan Peoples Party officials had gathered at Bilawal House.
Despite initial reports of an afternoon arrival, the president landed just after 1am at the PAF Base Masroor in the city’s Mauripur area and was driven straight to Bilawal House. He was accompanied by seven people on his private plane, including his daughter Aseefa and the petroleum minister, Dr Asim Hussain.
The acting president Farooq Naek and the president’s sister Faryal Talpur were on hand at his city residence to receive the president – alongside a heavy security presence. Sindh Home Minister Manzoor Wassan personally supervised the security arrangements, which saw extra Rangers deployed all around Bilawal House and other parts of the city.
Talking to the media, the Sindh home minister could not resist a dig at the president’s detractors in the electronic media. “These pundits on TV channels were predicting the president would never come.”
The president’s spokesman Farahatullah Babar had earlier said that the “president is now fine and the doctors have given him permission to travel, but we cannot disclose his schedule with media.”
Sources indicate that after resting, the president will hold key meetings for a few days before flying off to Islamabad. “He can hold meetings with party leaders to dispel the impression that he is suffering from serious illness and afraid of recent developments in the wake of the memo case,” a senior PPP leader said, adding that Zardari will be in Larkana on December 27 to attend the death anniversary of Benazir Bhutto.
The president flew to Dubai on December 6, sparking a flurry of speculation about his health – and the health of democracy in the country. He was released from the city’s American Hopsital on Wednesday and has been convalescing at his residence in the emirate. The official line is that he was treated for a transient ischemic attack, in which the blood supply to a part of the nervous system is cut off, but not for long enough to kill tissue, as happens in a stroke. According to the presidency, Zardari suffered numbness and twitching in his left arm and had lost consciousness for a few seconds.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 19th, 2011