PAKISTAN, December 21, 2011–The memogate scandal exposes the fragile relationship between the civilian government of Pakistan and the government of the United States. As a result of the scandal, the Pakistani ambassador to US, Mr Hussain Haqqani, has resigned and the President of Pakistan, Mr Asif Ali Zardari, is under pressure to resign as the supreme court of Pakistan investigates his involvement in the scandal.
The memogate scandal rocked Pakistan in October, after Mr. Mansur Ijaz, an extremely wealthy US businessman of Pakistani ancestry, published an article in the Financial Times against Pakistan’s intelligence service and alleging that senior Pakistan officials had asked him to deliver a memo to the Pentagon seeking US assistance in undermining Pakistan’s military and intel service.
Mr. Ijaz subsequently alleged that the Pakistan Ambassador to the United States, Mr Hussain Haqqani, contacted him the day after US SEALs killed Osama Bin Laden to ask for his help. Mr. Ijaz said Mr. Haqqani and Pakistan’s President, Asif Ali Zardari, were attempting to thwart a coup by Pakistan’s military and desperately needed the assistance of the US military. Mr. Haqqani reportedly asked Mr. Ijaz to deliver a secret memo to the Pentagon, asking for US help to move against the military and the intelligence services.
After publishing the article, Mr. Ijaz met with the Director General of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan, Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, in London and gave him the telephonic record of all his communications with Mr Haqqani. According to these records, Mr Haqqani was communicating with Mr Ijaz on the behest of President of Pakistan, Mr Asif Ali Zardari. Mr, Ijaz also provided proof of his personal meetings with Mr. Zardari in the past and claimed that he knew the President personally. Mr. Ijaz further stated that Mr. Haqqani contacted him at the direction of Mr. Zardari.
According to Mr. Ijaz, the purpose of the memo was to alert the United States of coup planning by the ISI and the army. Mr. Ijaz said Mr. Zardari and Mr. Haqqani were concerned about a meeting between Mr. Pasha and the head of state of a Middle East country, which they claimed was to finalize plans to oust the President of Pakistan by military coup.
Mr. Ijaz said he wrote a memorandum using the material provided by Mr. Haqqani and then sent it to General James Jones, a former US security adviser. General James then conveyed it to Admiral (Retired) Mike Mullen, the then top military official in the United States. Admiral Mike Mullen admitted receiving the memo, but says he dismissed it. He indicated that the content of the memorandum was published by the media and are freely available.
In Pakistan, the memorandum has become a serious issue. Mr. Haqqani resigned from his post of Ambassador and the new Ambassador, Ms. Sherry Rahman, has not yet taken her post in Washington., and the Supreme Court of Pakistan is conducting an inquiry into the scandal.
This case is unique in the history of Pakistan, as no coup plotters or dictators have ever faced prosecution in Pakistan courts. However, a civilian President is now facing investigation on charges of treason for seeking assistance in thwarting a coup.
There is also great skepticism by Pakistan regarding the memo. Some sectors believe the memo does not exist, and that the scandal is a stunt by the US government. They believe Mr. Ijaz is acting on the orders from US government, which is trying to bring instability to Pakistan.
The circumstances surrounding the memorandum and the scandal show the weak ties between US government and civilian portion of the government of Pakistan. Although military to military contacts between Pakistan and US are very strong, civilian contacts are so weak that there is not a single reliable focal person to convey a secret message from the President of Pakistan to the top military official of US. Mr. Zardari is the co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party, which is the biggest political party of Pakistan, and he has no direct links with the top military official of US. This leaves Pakistan’s civilian government in a very vulnerable situation.
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