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Pakistan coup rumors: Could the military take over again?

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B.K.Bangash/AP/File

(Read caption) This 2010 file photo shows Pakistan's former US ambassador Husain Haqqani, right, talking with Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari in Multan, Pakistan.

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There’s never a good time to be worried about your health. But when Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari flew to Dubai on Tuesday to undergo tests after what his spokesman called a “minor heart attack,” the rumors grew thick and fast that President Zardari would be ousted in a coup.

Pakistan is a rumor-prone place, despite having a fairly independent press, and both Pakistani and US officials were quick to tamp down any rumors of a military coup. But Zardari’s health problems come at a time when he is deeply unpopular with his own people, both over the usual issues of corruption and over his handling of international relations with the US, which have reached a nadir.

In theory, the US and Pakistan are allies in the fight against the same terrorist group, Al Qaeda, and supporters of a democratic regime in Afghanistan. But a spate of recent events shows how much the US-Pakistani relationship has soured.

  • The US capture and killing of Osama bin Laden on May 1, 2011, just yards away from a Pakistani military installation this year
  • The arrest and release of a CIA contract Raymond Davis for killing two Pakistanis on a motorbike in late January 2011
  • The continued US use of military drones over Pakistan, aimed at insurgents, but occasionally killing civilians as well
  • The apparently mistaken November 2011 bombardment of Pakistani soldiers by NATO forces in Afghanistan
  • And more recently, the withdrawal of Zardari’s ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, after news emerged that he supported the civilian government
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