Islamabad: A seemingly innocuous statement issued by a military institute of cardiology asking people not to go abroad for treatment of heart diseases has raised questions about whether the Pakistan Army had an inkling of President Asif Ali Zardari's plans to travel to Dubai.

The statement issued on November 23 by the Inter-Services Public Relations on behalf of the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology and National Institute of Heart Diseases said the state of the art facility "provides the best treatment to heart patients and there was no need for any heart patient to go abroad for treatment".

The institute's spokesman noted that its executive director, Maj Gen Asif Ali Khan, had taken note of the case of a child from Peshawar who was suffering from a heart disease and had appealed to the President to help with his treatment abroad.

The statement in Urdu, which was emailed to reporters, said Khan had asked the child's family to contact the institute and said: "Since the institute is providing the best treatment, there is no need for any heart patient to go abroad anymore".

The statement and its timing has raised questions in Islamabad's political circles as to whether the powerful military was aware of President Zardari's plans to travel abroad for treatment of what officials have described as a "previously diagnosed cardiovascular condition".

"There definitely seems to be more to this than meets the eye," a Western diplomat who was aware of the statement said. Following Zardari's abrupt departure for Dubai on Tuesday, some reports had suggested that he had undergone a check-up by military doctors at the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology.

However, the presidential spokesman and other officials denied these reports.

The President's visit to Dubai and the fact that the government has not announced a date for his return has led to speculation that the unpopular leader might resign due to growing pressure on him from the powerful military.

Zardari has been at the centre of a storm since Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz made public a secret memorandum sent to the US military that sought American help to stave off a possible military takeover in May.

Despite denials from officials, Islamabad continues to be abuzz with rumours and unconfirmed reports that Zardari had suffered a "minor heart attack" and facial paralysis.

A daily on Friday quoted an unnamed presidential aide as saying that Zardari may not return to Pakistan for weeks.