Pakistan President 'not Worried' About Crisis

Published January 13, 2012 6:54AM (EST)

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan's president returned on Friday from a trip to Dubai that provoked fresh questions over whether he was being pushed out of office, his spokesman said, adding that the leader was not worried about his political future.

President Asif Ali Zardari is under intense pressure from the military establishment, as well as what many see is a partisan Supreme Court intent on ousting his government before the end of its term in 2013.

Amid this crisis, Zardari went to Dubai Thursday for a one-day personal trip to attend a wedding, officials said.

The president traveled last month to Dubai for medical reasons, triggering widely reported rumors he was on the verge of resigning. Another sudden departure at a time of crisis had raised questions, although this time the speculation was more measured.

He returned early Friday, said spokesman Farhatullah Babar. Asked whether Zardari was concerned about his political future, Babar said, "Absolutely not. Why should he be? He is comfortable and perfectly all right ".

Parliament was set Friday to convene and vote on a motion expressing support for the government, giving it what would at least be a symbolic boost.

The army, which has staged four coups in Pakistan's history and still is believed to consider itself the only true custodian of the country's interests, has never liked Zardari.

But a scandal that erupted late last year, which centered on an unsigned memo sent to Washington asking for its help in heading off a supposed coup following the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden, has brought the army and civilian government into near-open confrontation.

A Supreme Court commission is probing the affair, which in theory could lead to Zardari's ouster.

The court has also ordered the government to open corruption investigations into Zardari dating back years. The government has refused. Earlier this week, the court said it could dismiss Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Reza Gilani over the case. Judges are convening Monday for what could be a decisive session.

The government has a solid majority in parliament, and it wants to harness that support to solidify its position.

While its lawmakers are widely seen as both corrupt and ineffectual, they — unlike the army and the judges — have legitimacy because they were elected to office. Pakistan history of successive military coups and interference in the democratic process by the courts and the army are main cause of the country's current malaise, proponents of democracy say.

The nuclear-armed country is facing a host of problems, among them near economic collapse and a virulent al-Qaida- and Taliban-led insurgency.

Also Friday, militants assaulted a police station in the northwestern city of Peshawar, shooting dead three officers and wounding nine others, said police officer Saeed Khan.

The Pakistani Taliban have carried out hundreds of attacks on the country's army and other security forces since 2007. The attack came a day after militants armed with guns and grenades killed four Pakistani soldiers in an ambush in the South Waziristan tribal area.

By Salon Staff

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