Monday, November 28, 2011

Pak Government and the Memorandum Issue

November 21, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

Mansoor Ijaz an American businessman with Pakistani descent has claimed that Pakistan's ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani requested him to deliver a secret memorandum on behalf of President Asif Ali Zardari to the US, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen for seeking help to prevent a probable military takeover. Admiral Mullen was known to have good equation with General Ashfaq Kiani, the COAS of Pakistan army.

In the aftermath of the Osama Ben laden’s assassination by US Navy Seals on May 2 this year, President Zardari feared that the military may stage a coup and oust him from power. In a state of urgency or panic he reportedly, tried to solicit the help of the Pentagon to stop Pakistan army from such a projected action.

All other grave issues that have been jolting Pakistan from time to time during the last some four years of PPP government, the latest is the most horrendous. The government as usual is ducking the fallout and fruitlessly endeavoring to make it look like a non issue or at best a sinister conspiracy against the PPP government.

But unless the chickens come home to roost and a plausible outcome emerges from the crossfire, the uproar would continue to rage. The immediate follow-up of such a phenomenally serious issue should have been to send the incumbent ambassador of Pakistan in USA, Hussain Haqqani on leave till the matter was decided by a competent and credible authority.

Such an authority could be a high powered commission to be composed of the members both civilian and military. If the government dithers and want to buy the cooling off time as it has been doing on other issues it would earn more flake.

The eye catching aspect of this issue is the mistrust about the army that has been highlighted in the note alleged to have been sent by Mr. Haqqani through Ijaz Mansoor to the then Admiral Mike Mullen. As the memo spells out, shameful concessions have been promised to the United States if Mike Mullen would prevail upon the Pakistan army chief and other top military brass to not dislodge the incumbent PPP government.

Mansoor Ijaz reportedly handed over this memo to a former US National Security Advisor James Jones to be further passed on to Admiral Mike Mullen. James Jones has acknowledged that he was the intermediary who delivered the memo to the Admiral Mike Mullen on May 10 this year. The secret memorandum was purportedly dictated by ambassador Haqqani on telephone and typed by Mansoor Ijaz.

In a telephonic interview to Imran Khan the well known Geo TV channel anchor, Mansoor Ijaz reiterated that ambassador Haqqani dictated the memorandum to him on the phone on May 10 at about ten o’clock and that he has proof of that on his black berry. To a subsequent question Mansoor said that when he asked Mr. Haqqani if he has the approval of president Zardari, the latter told him that he as his authority and approval.
With these contradictory statements, the matter seems to have become quite complicated and it is rather difficult for the neutral observer to find which side was right. From the clarification that was issued by the Pentagon says that indeed the admiral received the memorandum and even saw it but set aside it because it did not carry the signatures of the sender.

In the meantime Mr. Haqqani who is now in Pakistan has to explain his side of the story to the high ups of the Pakistan army who may accept or reject his explanation.By a stroke of luck and with consummate articulation skill that Mr. Haqqani abundantly is blessed with, even if the army may take a lenient or softer attitude, the matter would not completely die out.

The political parties mostly notably the PMLN has declared to file the case in the supreme court of Pakistan for a thorough probe with a view to finding the truth. The issue of memo has gripped the whole country and there are diverse projections about the fate of Ambassador Haqqani whether he would stay or leave the prestigious office.

Since his arrival in Pakistan he has met the president of Pakistan and would also brief the army on this thorny issue that has been variously described as treasonous act on the part of the ambassador if proven.

Side by side with the explanation of ambassador Haqqani, the president of Pakistan should also make it clear whether he gave or not the green signal to the ambassador to go ahead with the delivery of the memo that has caught the government unawares.

Rationally the writing of a letter to the American Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is not a big issue nor can it be tagged as a treasonous or treacherous or even a criminal act.

Rather it was a sagacious and objective and even correct approach of the incumbent Pakistan government to prevent a military coup that would have ditched a democratic government chosen by the people.

This should rather be deemed as an appreciable step that the Pakistan government thought of resorting to save a democratic form of government no matter how worse, but is still hundred times better than a military regime.

But what looks rather irksome is the clumsy way it was done. Ambassador Haqqani instead of hiring a medium and intermediary should have himself approached the American State Department or even Pentagon requesting them to intercede and prevent the possible or the apprehended military take over. That would have been a more graceful and face-saving approach than asking a mediocre middle man to do the momentous needful.

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