'Memogate' triggers coup buzz in Pakistan

Pakistan's political landscape was again abuzz with “coup talk'' and “change'' as tensions between the civil and military leadership prevailed over its Ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani allegedly submitting a memo on behalf of President Asif Ali Zardari to the former U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, seeking Washington's help in pre-empting a military takeover after the Abbottabad operation.

Though Mr. Haqqani submitted his resignation on Wednesday, it has not been accepted as yet. The beleaguered Ambassador got further sucked into the raging controversy with Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz — who claims to have delivered the memo to Admiral Mullen — now naming Mr. Haqqani as the person who drafted the memo.

Pushed to the wall both inside and outside Parliament by allegations that the government had surrendered its sovereignty to the U.S. by seeking its help, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani urged fellow politicians to show “political maturity'' pointing out Mr. Haqqani had been summoned to explain his actions. This plea came amid demands from Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Chaudhry Nisar, for a joint session of Parliament to discuss the memo. Till date only portions of the memo had been available — as provided by Mr. Ijaz through his article in Financial Timeslast month — but the entire document was in circulation on Friday. In it the civilian leadership of Pakistan is shown to be apprehensive of a coup because of “desperate efforts'' for apportioning blame for the OBL (Osama bin Laden) raid.

Calling it a “tug of war between military and civilian sectors'', the memo says: “Civilians cannot withstand much more of the hard pressure being delivered from the Army to succumb to wholesale changes. If civilians are forced from power, Pakistan becomes a sanctuary for OBL's legacy and potentially the platform for far more rapid spread of al Qaeda's brand of fanaticism and terror. A unique window of opportunity exists for the civilians to gain the upper hand over army and intelligence directorates due to their complicity in the OBL matter.''

Seeking Washington's direct intervention in “conveying a strong, urgent and direct message to Gen Kayani [Chief of Army Staff] that delivers Washington's demand for him and Gen Pasha [Director General ISI] to end their brinkmanship aimed at bringing down the civilian apparatus,'' the memo in turn offers to abandon the policies that Pakistan has pursued till date vis-à-vis terrorism, Afghanistan and even India.

Offering to replace the national security structure with trusted advisers having historical links to the U.S., the memo promises to “eliminate Section S of the ISI charged with maintaining relations to the Taliban, Haqqani network, etc.''

Besides, it promises to take action against al-Qaeda operatives remaining in Pakistan including chief Ayman Al Zawahiri and Taliban leaders Mullah Omar and Sirajuddin Haqqani or give U.S. military forces a “green light” to conduct necessary operations to capture or kill them on Pakistani soil. “This ‘carte blanche' guarantee is not without political risks, but should demonstrate the new group's commitment to rooting out bad elements on our soil. This commitment has the backing of the top echelon on the civilian side of our house, and we will insure necessary collateral support.''

Pointing out that the OBL raid had increased fears within the military-intelligence establishment of U.S. stealth capabilities to enter and exit Pakistani airspace at will — making nuclear assets legitimate targets — the memo also says the government would develop an acceptable framework of discipline for the nuclear programme. “This effort was begun under the previous military regime, with acceptable results. We are prepared to reactivate those ideas and build on them in a way that brings Pakistan's nuclear assets under a more verifiable, transparent regime.''

Though the President's office and the Foreign Office had earlier denied that such a memo had been drafted, Admiral Mullen's office — which last week denied receiving the memo — confirmed its existence to The Cable website on Wednesday. His spokesman said the memo had been received but no attention was paid to it. “He did not find it at all credible and took no note of it then or later. Therefore, he addressed it with no one.''

Meanwhile, in a statement, Mr. Ijaz — whose credibility is also being questioned — has offered to submit himself to any enquiry, allow forensic examination of his records and engage in a debate with Mr. Haqqani who continues to deny drafting or assigning delivery of the memo.

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 2:41:53 AM |

Next Story