Posts Tagged ‘ Memogate ’

Pakistan Probe Says Ex-Envoy to US Wrote ‘Treasonous’ Memo to Washington

By Asif Shahzad for The Associated Press

A judicial investigation has concluded Pakistan’s former ambassador to the U.S. did write a secret letter to American officials requesting their help in reining in the powerful army last year, a lawmaker and state media said Tuesday. The finding could lead to treason charges against the envoy.

The former envoy Husain Haqqani was a close aide to President Asif Ali Zardari and a member of his party. Zardari himself could be threatened if any evidence surfaces showing he ordered, or knew of, the memo.

Haqqani, who resigned from his post after the scandal broke and currently lives in America, has denied he wrote the memo and said the commission’s report was “political and one-sided.” Many independent observers have also concluded that the probe was politicized.

The commission was investigating politically explosive allegations that Haqqani sought U.S. assistance last year in warding off an alleged army coup in the aftermath of the U.S raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May. The scandal pitted the weak civilian government against the army, and drew in other the feuding power brokers in Pakistan — the Supreme Court, the opposition and the media.

The dispute over the letter and other politically driven clashes between Pakistani state institutions, as well as an increasingly hostile relationship with Washington, have intensified strains on the shaky elected government as it struggles against Islamist militancy and economic stagnation. Some analysts have predicted events could end in a destabilizing stalemate, conditions that in the past have led to coups and other military interventions.

Allegations of collusion between Washington and Pakistani officials may also complicate American efforts to rebuild security cooperation with Pakistan, thrown into disarray in November by U.S. airstrikes that accidentally targeted Pakistani soldiers along the Afghan border and killed 24 of them.

The United States wants Pakistan to resolve its political turmoil and focus on fighting militancy and helping in its campaign in neighboring Afghanistan. But anti-Americanism is rife in Pakistan, and few politicians are willing to publicly help Washington. Pakistan has yet to reopen supply lines for NATO and US troops that it blocked after the November airstrikes. On Monday, US officials said a negotiating team in Pakistan seeking to get the supply lines reopened was returning home, the latest sign of stalled relations between the two countries. Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague, on a visit to Pakistan, said his government wanted to see the supply lines reopened.

“Those lines of communication affect us as well,” he told reporters, but added it was an issue for Islamabad and Washington to resolve.

The commission called witnesses and sought telephone records from Haqqani, who did not appear before the probe. Many other Pakistani observers have been skeptical of the investigation. Haqqani’s chief accuser in the case was an American-Pakistani businessman with a history of making unsubstantiated allegations and who once appeared in a music video featuring naked female mud wrestlers.

The commission read out its finding in the Supreme Court. Opposition lawmaker Khwaja Asif, who was present, said it concluded Haqqani tried to undermine Pakistan’s constitution and was not “loyal to the state.” The court ordered Haqqani to appear before it after two weeks.

Retired Justice Nasira Javed said the commission was working on orders from the Supreme Court and criminal proceedings against Haqqani on treason charges could now begin.

The release of the findings came just hours before the Supreme Court heard testimony from a billionaire property developer who claimed that the son of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry accepted $3.5 million worth of shopping and foreign trips to influence judges at the court. The case is embarrassing for Chaudhry, and is seen by some as part of a campaign by supporters of Zardari’s government to tarnish his image. Chaudhry recently convicted Prime Minister Yousuf Reza Gilani, an ally of Zardari, of contempt of court for not opening corruption charges against the president.

Alluding to that case, ex-envoy Haqqani said the “commission’s report has been released to distract attention from other more embarrassing developments.”

Supporters of Haqqani and the government accuse the Supreme Court and the army of working against Zardari and the political party he heads. His movement claims a long history of persecution by the army in Pakistan

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Husain Haqqani, former Pakistan envoy to US, allowed to travel abroad

By Richard Leiby for The Washington Post

Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States, was permitted to travel abroad Monday by the nation’s Supreme Court after two months of fending off treason allegations over his purported involvement in a mysterious memo that sought Washington’s help to neuter Pakistan’s powerful military.

The court ruling indicated that authorities seem to have lost interest in continuing to probe Haqqani’s role in the scandal, known here as Memogate, which at one point threatened to bring down the civilian leadership of this coup-prone country.

Haqqani, a confidant of President Asif Ali Zardari, was forced to resign, recalled to Islamabad and ordered not to travel abroad after a Pakistani American tycoon, Mansoor Ijaz, alleged that the diplomat engineered an unsigned missive to the Pentagon hoping to block a coup in the turbulent days after the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Haqqani denied involvement and said Ijaz, a onetime acquaintance, cooked up the memo.

In an e-mail to Agence France-Presse, Haqqani said: “I am glad that the Supreme Court has restored my right to travel, which had been rescinded without any charges being filed against me.” He added that he planned to join his family in the United States.

Memogate prompted a showdown between the army and the civilian leadership, which technically oversees the military, and brought an already shaky government to the verge of collapse. The fissures between the two sides now seem to have been repaired, and the incessant political and media interest in the scandal has waned in recent days.

One reason seemed to be the dwindling credibility of Ijaz, who has yet to appear to testify about his role in the memo, saying he fears for his safety. The bulk of evidence has come from Ijaz, who released logs of what he says are BlackBerry message conversations between him and Haqqani.

Since his return to Islamabad, Haqqani has stayed within the walls of the official government residence, saying he feared for his life.

Earlier this month, U.S. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) issued a statement condemning the “harassment” of Haqqani, a former journalist and Boston University professor. They called him a “principled advocate” for Pakistan.

Despite allowing the erstwhile diplomat to travel, the Supreme Court did not drop the matter entirely: It granted a two-month extension to the judicial commission that is probing Memogate. And Haqqani’s lawyer had to guarantee that the former envoy would appear before the court if called, on four days’ notice.

A separate parliamentary investigation is also underway.

The End of a Geopolitical Affair

By Pramit Pal Chaudhri for The Hindustan Times

In Pakistan’s current crisis, why is its military is so reluctant to consider simply seizing power? One reason is that General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani cannot count on the US looking the other way. At a minimum, Washington would have to slap sanctions on an economically faltering country. At a maximum, it would be the last straw in a bilateral relationship at its lowest ebb since it was first woven in the 1950s.

Pakistan’s establishment claims it has been used and abused by the US, the most serious violation being that country’s stealth attack on Abbottabad that led to Osama bin Laden’s death. There has been the Raymond Davies affair, the endless drone attacks and the increasingly public accusation of double-dealing by senior US officials – the most notable being Admiral Mike Mullen’s linking of the Inter-Services Intelligence with terrorist groups.

There is some satisfaction for India in all this. It has been persistently claiming the existence of a military-terrorist nexus. Many in Washington agree. After Abbottabad, there is no one in Washington who doesn’t. The US-Pakistan relationship, says Daniel Twining of the German Marshall Fund, “was really at a historic high for the past decade but is diminishing.” But it might not matter as much to the US if relations fall apart, he says.

Other events are undermining the basis of the US-Pakistani bond. Islamabad had expected the US to totally retreat from Afghanistan, leaving Pakistan’s Taliban allies in charge. Instead, the US will leave a substantial force behind along with many drone bases. The US is talking with the Taliban, but only desultorily with groups that Islamabad patronises.

With the US Congress also pulling the plug on aid to Pakistan, what is left? The answer is nukes. “If Pakistan didn’t have nuclear weapons, with Al Qaeda almost gone, no one would care a fig about that country,” said one ex-US ambassador to the region. As they realise this, Islamabad is getting more paranoid about the security of its “strategic assets.” The more unstable they look, the more willing the US will be to try and do something risky to salvage Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

US officials are talking about a “new normal” in their Pakistan relations. This would cut ties to the bare bones: counterterrorism cooperation, limited military transit requirements, Afghan talks, narcotics and some humanitarian assistance. “We’ll have to work with the Pakistan military on a limited basis while negotiations with the Taliban proceed,” says John Schlosser, a former state department South Asia hand.

There seems to be no real understanding among Pakistanis that their leverage is dwindling or how much Abbottabad vapourised their credibility in the US. A parliamentary committee report on how to change the US relationship bizarrely demanded, for example, a civilian nuclear agreement.

It could get worse. “The relationship will fall further if the US finds [Al Qaeda chief] Zawahiri in Pakistan. Or there are terror strikes on India or the US,” says Bruce Riedel, former AfPak advisor to Barack Obama.

The worst thing is that Washington is decoupling just at a time when Pakistan, economically and otherwise, can least afford to lose their most generous international partner.

Early Elections Seen as Possible Solution to Pakistan’s Political Crisis

By Saeed Shah for The Miami Herald

Pakistan’s political crisis, which pits its president against determined opponents in foes in Parliament, the Supreme Court and the military, is likely to reach fever pitch on Monday with a confidence vote scheduled in Parliament and hearings scheduled in two critical court cases.

The crisis is so intense that President Asif Zardari’s administration may be willing to call elections for as soon as October, according to members of his ruling coalition and its advisers. But that may not be enough to mollify the opposition, which wants earlier elections, or the country’s powerful military establishment, which is believed to be trying to force a so-called “soft coup,” under which Zardari, a critic of the military’s traditional dominance of Pakistan, would be forced out by Parliament or the courts.

The threat of an outright coup also hangs over the crisis, if the politicians cannot find a way out or the court proceedings reach absolute stalemate.

Whether the government can reach agreement with opposition leader Nawaz Sharif is unclear. Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party doesn’t want to announce elections until after voting in March for a new Senate, which the PPP is widely expected to win. But Sharif would like the new elections to be in the summer, perhaps June, which would require an earlier announcement.

“There is no other option for the government to come out of the current crisis without elections,” said an adviser to the PPP leadership, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, as did the other coalition members. “It is in the interests of the PPP to reach an agreement with Nawaz.”

The PPP rules with three major coalition partners, but the alliance is looking shaky. Two of the parties, the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, have distanced themselves somewhat from the government.

A senior member of the coalition said the parties so far have agreed internally only to a general election to be held in October. That would be just a few months before the February 2013 date when Parliament would complete its five-year term and elections would have to be held anyway.

An early election should also placate the courts and the military. A supposedly neutral caretaker government would have to be installed to oversee a three-month electioneering period.

Another coalition member said: “It is 100 percent certain that there will be elections in 2012. The only solution is elections. It doesn’t matter whether they are held in June or October.”

Zardari’s coalition itself brought Monday’s confidence vote resolution to Parliament, cleverly wording it so that it asks for support not for the prime minister or even the government, but for democracy. That makes it difficult to oppose.

But the PPP’s troubles in Parliament are only one of the fronts in its battle for survival. The courts and the military are both maneuvering against the party’s leaders, with two explosive cases coming up for hearings Monday.

The first stems from a 2007 decree by President Pervez Musharraf that granted immunity from prosecution to Zardari and other exiled PPP politicians in an effort to persuade them to return to Pakistan to participate in elections that Musharraf was being pressured by the United States to hold.

The Supreme Court later ruled, however, that the decree was illegal and demanded that the government reopen corruption charges against Zardari stemming from the time when his wife, the assassinated PPP leader Benazir Bhutto, was prime minister.

The government declined, however, and now the court has summoned the government to explain its actions. The court could declare Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in contempt of court, which would in effect remove him from office.

The other case involves the the scandal in which a judicial commission is investigating allegations that Husain Haqqani, a close Zardari adviser and former ambassador to the U.S., wrote a memo that was passed to U.S. officials in May. That memo offered to replace the Pakistan military’s top officials in return for U.S. support should the military attempt to push Zardari aside.

Haqqani, who was forced to resign, says he had nothing to do with the memo, which the military has said amounted to treason.

The judicial commission may take testimony this week from an American businessman, and occasional news commentator, Mansoor Ijaz, who claimed that he had delivered the memo to U.S. officials, in a column that appeared in the British newspaper the Financial Times in October. Ijaz has said he will show up as a witness, though he apparently has yet to receive a visa to enter Pakistan.

Pakistan’s alleged ‘Washington lackey’ fears for life

By Aamir Qureshi for MSNBC

Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States fears he will be murdered if he leaves the sanctuary of the prime minister’s official residence after he was branded a “Washington lackey” and a “traitor,” according to a new interview.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph newspaper, Husain Haqqani said that “certain powerful quarters” in Pakistan — the paper said this was a reference to the country’s ISI intelligence agency — were behind the claims against him.

Haqqani is at the center of a scandal that threatens to topple Pakistan’s government over an alleged request to the U.S. to help stop a coup by the army, following the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

In October, a U.S. businessman of Pakistani origin, Mansoor Ijaz, wrote an article for the Financial Times newspaper claiming Haqqani had written a memo to U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen, who was then chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, supposedly promising to replace Pakistan’s national security hierarchy with people favorable to the U.S. in exchange for help in reining in the military.

Ijaz, who claimed he had been asked to convey the message to Mullen, further alleged that Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari supported the move. The Financial Times operates behind a paywall, but Ijaz also wrote an article for Pakistan’s The News in November describing his allegations.

‘Hysteria’
Both Zardari and Haqqani denied Ijaz’s claims, but Haqqani subsequently resigned.

“I’m a guest of the prime minister (Yousuf Raza Gilani) with whom I have had a long-standing political association. There are clear security concerns given the hysteria generated against me. Staying at the prime minister’s house is the safest option,” Haqqani told the Telegraph in an interview published Wednesday.

“My good friend Salman Taseer (the late governor of Punjab) was killed by a security guard because he heard in the media that the governor had blasphemed. I’m being called a traitor and an American lackey in the media with the clear encouragement of certain powerful quarters even though I’ve not been charged legally with anything,” he added.

He said that he had left the prime minister’s house twice, once to go to court and another time to visit the dentist because he had toothache.

“The president and prime minister are firmly standing behind me and the government is not going anywhere. This is psychological warfare against the government,” he told the Telegraph.

In December, Zardari, who was married to former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007, said people should pay tribute to her memory by guarding against anti-democratic conspiracies, an apparent reference to tensions over the memo scandal.

He said his wife’s death was also a conspiracy against Pakistani democracy.

“I therefore urge all the democratic forces and the patriotic Pakistanis to foil all conspiracies against democracy and democratic institutions,” said Zardari in a statement sent to reporters.

Pakistan President Zardari in Dubai For Treatment as Coup Rumors Intensify

By Saeed Shah for The Guardian

Pakistan’s embattled president, Asif Ali Zardari, has been hospitalised in Dubai with a heart condition, triggering speculation that it could be used as an excuse for him to step down amid growing pressure from the military.

A government adviser said Zardari had suffered a “minor heart attack”, but this was at odds with the official spokesman for the president, who said the president had gone for routine tests for a pre-existing heart condition.

Rumours of a coup or a resignation forced by the military consumed the media and the internet, fuelled by a report in Foreign Policy magazine that said Zardari was “incoherent” on Monday night during a telephone conversation with Barack Obama.

Zardari’s son and political heir-apparent, Bilawal, met prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in Islamabad, adding to media hysteria about imminent change. Bilawal is chairman of the ruling Pakistan Peoples party.

The speculation hit a receptive, febrile political atmosphere, rocked by a diplomatic scandal and the recent jolt to relations with the US over the deaths of Pakistani soldiers at a border checkpost.

Pakistan has been ruled for half its existence by the military, and the armed forces have pulled the strings the rest of the time, meaning that the threat of coups are ever present .

Zardari’s aides said he would not resign. The president is deeply unpopular with Pakistan’s military establishment, which is widely believed to be behind repeated attempts to oust him.

“He had a minor heart attack on Tuesday. He flew to Dubai where he had an angioplasty. He’s in good health now. He will come back tomorrow. There’s no question of any resignation,” Mustafa Khokhar, the government’s adviser on human rights told the AFP news agency.

However, Farhatullah Babar, the president’s spokesman, dismissed media speculation, saying “Zardari is in a Dubai hospital for medical tests and checkup as planned”.

The president is under pressure from the “memogate” scandal in Pakistan, where he is accused of being behind a written offer delivered to the US military leadership in the days after the raid on Osasma bin Laden in May this year.

The anonymous memo offered to rein in the Pakistani military, in return for US support. Pakistan’s former US ambassador and close Zardari aide, Husain Haqqani, has already been forced to resign over the issue and faces possible treason charges.

Ali Dayan Hasan, of Human Rights Watch, the international campaigning group, warned against any military intervention. “Constitutional rule of law must be followed and civilian supremacy must be maintained,” he said. “Governance must be through genuine periodic elections.”

Fate of Pakistan’s Zardari May Hinge on Scandal of Purported Memo

By Alex Rodriguez for The Los Angeles Times

Did he, or didn’t he?

All over Pakistan, people are asking whether Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari approved a memo asking for Washington’s help in reining in the country’s powerful military.

The answer could play a role in whether Zardari, already deeply unpopular with both the public and the military, stays in power.

The scandal scorching the airwaves in Pakistani cities and towns now has a name — Memogate — and it is sparking talk of early elections. At the center of it all is Pakistani American businessman Mansoor Ijaz, who says a senior Pakistani diplomat asked him to convey a letter to Washington seeking its help in preventing a military takeover of Zardari’s administration.

In return, the letter stated, the Zardari government would eliminate a wing of the Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency, or ISI, that maintains links with Afghan insurgent groups, and would give U.S. troops “a green light” to root out Afghan militants hiding out in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Ijaz says Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, asked him to be the intermediary and that Zardari had endorsed the memo. The explosive allegations prompted Haqqani to offer his resignation as a way of defusing the controversy, though he denies either writing the memo or asking Ijaz to pass it on to Washington.

Unless Haqqani can show that the memo was fabricated, he could be ousted from his post. But analysts say the crisis also casts a shadow on Zardari, who has been criticized by many Pakistanis for his closeness to the American government, which they mistrust, as well as his failure to solve the country’s myriad economic and infrastructure ills.

“It might be a game-changer in the political arena, with the military concluding there’s no way it can trust the Zardari government,” said Pakistani columnist and legal expert Babar Sattar. “If the military isn’t willing to let this go, it could reduce the term of this government. That might be the only resolution: to hold early elections.”

If genuine, the memo sheds a harsh light on the deep rifts between Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders. Although Zardari is president, the military, led by army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, holds ultimate power in Pakistan, as it has for most of the country’s 64-year history. The military thinks Zardari is too acquiescent to Washington’s demands.

The memo purportedly was drafted a week after U.S. commandos killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden during a secret nighttime raid on his compound in the Pakistani military city of Abbottabad, about a two-hour drive from the capital. It portrays a civilian government convinced that the country’s military leaders were planning a coup against Zardari.

The rationale, Ijaz said in an Oct. 10 op-ed piece in the Financial Times newspaper, was that the military was being heavily criticized by the public and the media for allowing the raid to occur, and needed to make Zardari a scapegoat to deflect blame.

“Request your direct intervention in conveying a strong, urgent and direct message to Gen. Kayani that delivers Washington’s demand for him and [ISI chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja] Pasha to end their brinkmanship aimed at bringing down the civilian apparatus,” stated the memo, which was delivered to the then-chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael G. Mullen. The memo was published on the website of Foreign Policy magazine and by the Pakistani newspaper the News.

“If true, it shows that the civilian government really panicked,” said security analyst Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani general. “It’s extraordinary that they would get so nervous that they would write all this. It shows the deep divide between the civilian leadership and the military.

“If it’s a phony memo, it would recoil back at the [military].”

If the military was behind such a move, it could be aimed at discrediting or weakening Zardari’s government.

“The more likely, but far from certain, scenario? The boys are up to their tricks again,” Cyril Almeida, a columnist for Dawn, an English-language Pakistani newspaper, wrote Friday, referring to the military.

To back up his claims, Ijaz gave the News email that he says he and Haqqani exchanged at the time the memo was drafted and later conveyed to Mullen. On May 10, after the memo was delivered to Mullen, Ijaz allegedly emailed Haqqani, saying, “Ball is in play now — make sure you have protected your flanks.”

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