ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari left for Dubai on a scheduled one-day trip on Thursday, local television stations reported, amid growing tension over a memo seeking US help in preventing a coup by the military.
The president’s trip comes during the worst tensions between Pakistan’s civilian government and the military since a coup in 1999.
Gulf-based Pakistani sources said Zardari would make the trip for a medical check-up. “This trip will be for a follow-up medical check-up and then he’ll be returning right away,” an associate of Zardari said.
However, a senior member of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) said Zardari had left Pakistan to attend a wedding in Dubai. No official confirmation of either story was available immediately.
Zardari went to Dubai for medical treatment last month, triggering speculation that a military take-over in the nuclear-armed South Asian nation was imminent. He returned home a couple of weeks later.
Tension has risen between the civilian government and the military, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half its 64-year history, since a memo emerged last October purportedly seeking US help to stave off a military coup.
The military warned on Wednesday of “grievous consequences”” over reported comments by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani accusing the military of acting unconstitutionally amid the “memogate” scandal.
Deepening the crisis, Gilani later sacked the country’s top military bureaucrat for unspecified “gross misconduct and illegal action”.
A senior member of the PPP also warned on Wednesday that both sides appeared to be digging in their heels, although others have played down talk of an imminent showdown.