Threats forced Zardari to Dubai hospital
Islamabad - Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari was forced to seek treatment in Dubai because of threats to his life if he attended a Pakistani hospital, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said on Wednesday.
Speaking in the Senate, the prime minister said that the government and the president's family convinced Zardari to go to Dubai for treatment last week because there was a risk he would be attacked if he had treatment in Pakistan.
"He [President Zardari] was ill, he feared life threats in Pakistan hospitals, that was the reason he did not want to go to any hospital of Pakistan," the prime minister said in his address in the Senate.
Zardari's spokesperson said that the president will be discharged from hospital on Thursday after spending more than a week there, but will remain in the Gulf emirate to rest.
The 56-year-old Zardari flew to the United Arab Emirates last Tuesday after falling ill in the midst of a major scandal over alleged attempts by a close aide to seek US help to limit the power of Pakistan's military.
Zardari was being treated at the American Hospital in Dubai.
He is facing a major scandal over the extent to which he was involved in any attempts to rein in the military.
"We persuaded him, we convinced him, his family convinced him to go to Dubai," said Gilani.
The Prime Minister said that the threats were so serious that the President could not go to see his ailing father in an Islamabad hospital in May.
"His father was admitted in the hospital, he was on the ventilators, he was there for more than one and a half month, but the president did not visit him because he had life threats," Gilani said.
"Some people were arrested who wanted to attack him if he would visit the hospital," he said.
Since the killing of his wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in a suicide and gun attack in December 2007 in Rawalpindi, blamed on al-Qaeda-linked Pakistani Taliban, Zardari has repeatedly said that his life is in danger, but he does not care about the threats.
Since his election as president in September 2008, Zardari has rarely left his heavily guarded presidential palace and a huge security convoy escorts him when he travels abroad.
But his spokesperson said that Zardari was committed to leading his country.
"The President will come back to Pakistan after permission by the doctors and will not resign," said Farhatullah Babar after Gilani's speech.
"The president has to follow doctors' advice, he will travel after doctors will permit him," he said.
His doctor, Khaldoun Taha, issued a statement from the American Hospital saying that Zardari was admitted on December 6 with "left arm numbness and twitching" after losing consciousness for a few seconds.
Zardari has a long-standing heart condition, but was admitted "fully awake and conscious with stable vital signs", Taha added.
Cardiac and neurological tests were conducted, including a brain scan, but "all investigations were within normal range", the doctor said.