KARACHI: President Asif Ali Zardari landed at the PAF Base Masroor here late on Sunday night after remaining in Dubai for 12 days on health grounds.
His return will kill the wave of speculation, ranging from his possible self-exile in Dubai to his suffering from a serious ailment, circulating not only in the country but also around the world.
His office confirmed that the president has returned to Pakistan and will stay at the Bilawal House, the former residence of late prime minister Benazir Bhutto, named after their son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, for a few days.
His health condition is reportedly good and doctors have advised him to resume his official engagements but avoid hectic activities, sources said. There was speculation in the media that President Zardari, who was elected as Pakistan’s 13th president on Sept 6, 2008, will not return due to the mounting political pressure on him. However, the PPP co-chairman returned home in a special plane ‘Pakistan One’ late on Sunday.
The programme of the president’s return was kept secret and the officials and PPP leaders avoided confirming his plan. They said that the movement of the president was being kept secret due to security reasons.
Sindh Home Minister Manzoor Wassan told the media outside Bilawal House that the president is coming to Karachi along with his youngest daughter Assefa. The home minister said that all speculation of the political pundits about his return had proved baseless.
He said that the president had neither retreated from his position nor had he accepted any pressure. Wassan also rejected that the president’s return was a part of any deal and declared that the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto had sacrificed their lives but never compromised.
He said there will be meetings with President Zardari but these will be confirmed later. He said that the people had given a five-year mandate to the PPP and the government would complete its tenure.
The home minister confirmed that the president is fit and healthy. Earlier in Karachi, personnel of the law forcing agencies were deployed along the roads from the airport to Bilawal House on Sunday evening.
An official said that they were asked to make arrangements for the security as the president was expected to come back. Tight security arrangements were also made at Bilawal House as special security guards of the armed forces arrived from Islamabad.
Similar arrangements were also made in Islamabad for the landing of President Zardari. Sources say that President Zardari’s talk on the phone to Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani on Saturday, paved the way to his return.
The decision to come back was taken after consultation between Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and the army chief and officially it was clarified that there were no differences between the two major government institutions.
President Zardari left for Dubai two weeks ago on December 6 and received treatment at the American Hospital there. He is cardiac and diabetic patient and he had suffered a mild stroke.
Some reports claimed that the ailment of President Zardari could have been exacerbated by the US pressure for the restoration of the Nato supply lines which were closed following the US attack on the Salala checkpost, as well as the hearing in the Supreme Court into the memo scandal. But the PPP leadership rejects both the claims.