WASHINGTON: The Pakistan President, Mr Asif Ali Zardari's sudden return home from Dubai could be only for a "cameo appearance" before the fourth death anniversary of his wife Benazir Bhutto and would leave the county permanently.
Quoting Pakistani and Western officials, The New York Times said Mr Zardari's hurried return was only to attend Benazir's death anniversary on December 27.
After that the 56-year-old Mr Zardari would probably leave for a long — perhaps permanent — convalesce in London or Dubai.
The paper quoted officials as saying that the rush back was because of growing concern by his supporters that the military has been moving to strengthen its role in the country's governance.
The Times said that Pakistan's president infact could have flown into a storm, as pushed by the army Pakistan's Supreme Court started to probe whether Mr Zardari government was behind an unsigned memorandum that surfaced in October, purportedly asking the Obama administration to help curb the military's influence and avert a possible coup.
The paper said the Court had yesterday put off a decision on whether to investigate the controversial memo. The court called on the Pakistan government to provide more details in the case and set the next hearing for Thursday.
Pakistan's powerful army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and the ISI chief Lt. Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha, have urged the court to probe the origins of the memo, which had set off a political storm in the country.
The Pakistani ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, was ousted over the "memogate" scandal and frictions have risen sharply between the military and Mr Zardari.
The paper said Western officials had debated whether Mr Zardari would return in the midst of such political tumult. One interpreted his relatively surprising return as serving more than one purpose.
"He calculated that he wanted to reassert himself, and say I'm in charge here, as much as for internal party reasons as for addressing the Memogate issue," an American official said.
Another Western official underscored the damage to Mr Zardari's legitimacy. "We’re looking at a very compromised president," said the official, whose country's protocol did not allow him to speak publicly on the matter. "What matters is what the military believes."
During the Monday session of the nine-member Supreme Court, the Chief Justice, Mr Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry remarked that a statement submitted by General Kayani, included the assertion that the memo "unsuccessfully attempted to lower the morale of the Pakistan Army."
The tensions between the military and Mr Zardari were also evident from a statement that the military released yesterday that addressed reports portraying December 16 telephone conversation between Mr Zardari and General Kayani as a sign of a thaw between the two sides.
The military's Inter-Services Public Relations, said in a statement that Kayani had only inquired about the health of Mr Zardari.
"Attributing anything more to this telephonic conversation is unfounded and unnecessary," the army said.