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Pakistan on the Precipice

ISLAMABAD – Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari abruptly returned to Karachi on the morning of December 19, following a 13-day absence for medical treatment in Dubai, where he lived while in exile. The government issued no a formal statement about Zadari’s health, but his supporters disclosed that he had suffered a mild stroke, which left him unconscious for several minutes.

Zardari’s sudden return fueled speculation about his future, but, more importantly, about the future of civilian rule in Pakistan. His decision followed a three-hour meeting between Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the Pakistani army’s chief of the army. His choice of destination – Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and his political base, rather than Islamabad, the county’s capital – suggests the depth of the crisis now bubbling below the surface.