ISLAMABAD – As the PPP-led government is fencing Islamabad ahead of Tahirul Qadri's long march, the extended absence of President Asif Ali Zardari, the commanding officer of the hilltop post, has attracted many observers.

President Zardari, the PPP co-chairman and constitutional head of the state, has been out of the Presidency since December 3, 2012 for some ‘non-political engagements’, sources said, adding that the president would not return to Islamabad until 14 January because of his scheduled visit of interior Sindh.

The president has been operating from the Bilawal House in countering major challenges including long march of Dr Qadri, though he could easily managed the political manoeuvring from the Zardari House in Islamabad to avoid restrictions imposed by the apex court in its verdict of the Asghar Khan case.

Amid his non-political engagements, the President participated in a number of political activities including crucial PPP core committee meeting and convening a meeting of coalition partners to evolve counter strategy to tackle Qadri's long march, which many PPP activists believe is a conspiracy to delay elections.

Qadri conceded that Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Deputy Prime Minister Chaudhry Pervez Elahi were tasked by President Zardari to persuade him to call off the march.

The president's longest sojourn outside the Presidency began when he left for South Korea on a three-day official visit. On December 6 he arrived in Dubai and after two days flew to the UK to meet Malala Yousufzai. The president went to France on December 10 and returned to Pakistan on 16. Since then he is staying in Karachi.