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Year in 60 seconds: 2011
A multimedia showcase of some of 2011's top stories, including Japan's tragic earthquake, the Arab Spring, the demise of Osama bin Laden and Muammar Gaddafi, the shooting rampage in Norway, famine in Somalia and the Royal Wedding. Video
U.S. soldiers reflect on wounds of war
An uncertain future for Iraq as U.S. leaves
Batista bets on Brazil
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il dead, son hailed as heir
Exclusive: Secret U.S., Taliban talks reach turning point
Kim Jong-il: reclusive leader in a hermit
Overstretched drone pilots face stress risk
18 Dec 2011
Southwest, plains face blizzard warnings in big storm
18 Dec 2011
Ron Paul gains ground, further stirring Republicans
Ron Paul strongly defends anti-war policies
Supreme Court to decide Arizona immigration law
Freed Palestinian prisoners celebrate homecoming
Sun, Dec 18 2011
Rockets and funerals in Gaza
Fri, Dec 9 2011
Year in 60 seconds: 2011
Tue, Dec 6 2011
Zardari returns to Pakistan amid memo saga
West winning in Afghanistan: Pentagon chief
Wed, Dec 14 2011
U.S. lawmakers freeze $700 million to Pakistan, ties strained
Tue, Dec 13 2011
U.S. leaving drone base won't have big impact on air war
Mon, Dec 12 2011
Pakistan army believes NATO attack planned: reports
Fri, Dec 9 2011
Pakistan's Zardari stable, to undergo more tests
Thu, Dec 8 2011
Analysis & Opinion
Drum circle of the war hawks
Iraq’s slide to nowhere
By Faisal Aziz
Mon Dec 19, 2011 2:28am EST
KARACHI (Reuters) - President Asif Ali Zardari, who was in Dubai for medical treatment, returned on Monday to Pakistan, where tension is rising between his civilian government and the military over a memo accusing the country's generals of plotting a coup.
It's not clear when the deeply unpopular leader who has uneasy ties with the army will return to work. He flew into the southern city of Karachi.
"The president is thankfully fit and healthy and that is why he has returned," Shazia Marri, information minister for Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital, told Reuters.
"However, his activities over the next few days will depend on what the doctors advise."
Zardari could be damaged by the memo, reportedly crafted by the former Pakistani ambassador to the United States, which wants ally Pakistan stable so it can help wind the war down in neighboring Afghanistan.
Businessman Mansoor Ijaz, in a column in the Financial Times on October 10, said a senior Pakistani diplomat had asked that a memo be delivered to the Pentagon with a plea for U.S. help to stave off a coup in the days after Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan in a U.S. raid, to the embarrassment and anger of the military.
Ijaz later identified the diplomat as Husain Haqqani, the then Pakistani ambassador to Washington who is close to Zardari.
Haqqani denied involvement in the memo but resigned over the what has been dubbed "memogate".
The Supreme Court on Monday started hearings into a petition demanding an inquiry into who was behind it. As president, Zardari is immune from prosecution but the controversy could seriously damage him politically.
If a link is proven, the military, which has long been distrustful of Zardari, could push for his ouster.
Although Zardari has been a largely ceremonial president since constitutional amendments last year, he wields considerable influence as leader of the ruling party and his forced departure would be a humiliation for the civilian leadership and would throw the country into turmoil.
ISLAMISTS SUPPORT MILITARY
Ruling Pakistan People's Party officials have dismissed the memo as a non-issue and played down concern the military could move against Zardari.
"The government and the military are on the same page. There is no conflict, and there is no chance of any rift between state institutions," said a PPP leader who requested anonymity.
"We don't want any conflict and won't do anything which leads to that."
But the military is taking the memo seriously.
Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani has called for an investigation into the memo, which he said was an attempt to hurt national security.
Tension between the civilian government and military has bedeviled the nuclear-armed South Asian country for almost its entire existence, with the military ruling the country for more than half of its 64-year history after a series of coups.
About 30,000 Islamists staged a protest on Sunday to condemn the United States and show support for Pakistan's military, which has reasserted itself after a cross-border NATO attack and the memo that has weakened the civilian government.
Pakistan's military, which has supported militants in Afghanistan and Indian Kashmir, was humiliated by the unilateral U.S. special forces raid that killed bin Laden in May, and faced unprecedented public criticism.
But many Pakistanis rallied behind it after a November 26 cross-border NATO air raid killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, and plunged already troubled ties with Washington to a low point.
No evidence has emerged that the army was plotting a coup and the Pentagon at the time dismissed the memo as not credible.
Haqqani's resignation was seen by many analysts as further weakening the civilian government, which is already beset by allegations of corruption and incompetence and is seen as failing to cope with many issues, such as a Taliban insurgency and a struggling economy.
The military, which determines security and foreign policy, dismisses any suggestion that it might stage a coup but analysts say intervention could not be ruled out in the event of chaos.
Zardari was elected in 2008 on the back of a sympathy vote after his more charismatic wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated after returning from self-exile.
While the military is believed to see Zardari as inept and corrupt, it has apparently also concluded he was a better option than other political leaders it distrusted even more.
But suspicion runs both ways.
At one point, Kayani hinted to the U.S. ambassador to Islamabad that he might have to persuade Zardari to step down because of political turmoil, according to a 2009 cable released by WikiLeaks.
In a 2009 WikiLeaks cable, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden told then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown that Zardari had told him that Kayani and Pakistan's intelligence chief Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha would "take me out".
Criminal cases could haunt Zardari, who earned the title "Mr 10 Percent" while Bhutto was in power, based on allegations he demanded kickbacks on state contracts.
Zardari was also accused of murder. He was never convicted and denied wrongdoing on all charges but spent 11 years in jail.
In 2009, the Supreme Court scrapped a controversial amnesty law that had dismissed corruption charges against thousands of Pakistani politicians, including Zardari.
Even though Zardari is looking more politically fragile after memogate, stepping down would strip him of presidential immunity in the corruption cases.
(Additional reporting by Praveen Menon in DUBAI, and Sheree Sardar and Qasim Nauman in ISLAMABAD; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Robert Birsel)
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