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Islam and Politics ( 24 Nov 2011, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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There are Many Ironies in the 'Memogate' Affair

By Najam Sethi

November 25 - December 01, 2011

Hussain Haqqani, a civilian ambassador of repute, has been forced to resign at the behest of the military establishment even before any commission of inquiry has been set up to investigate his alleged culpability in any "treasonable" activity. But despite military debacles in East Pakistan, the loss of Siachin, the misadventure in Kargil, the incompetence in the face of terrorist attacks on GHQ, Navy HQ and the Osama bin Laden raid, not one soldier has deemed it right and honourable to fall on his own sword and not one commission of inquiry has ever scalped a general.

The Pakistan Muslim League N is filing a petition in the Supreme Court asking the court to launch a judicial investigation into "Memogate" with a view to indicting the President, Asif Zardari, as an anti-Pakistan conspirator along with Mr. Haqqani. But the SC has been sitting for a decade on a petition lodged by Air Marshal (R) Asghar Khan, in which evidence has been presented to show that the PMLN and ISI (an organ of the state) treasonably joined hands to rig an election and thwart the PPP from coming to power. The greater irony is that the charge of running to the Americans to save a civilian government from the wrath of the military which is being laid at the door of Mr. Zardari in "Memogate" is a charge that can also be leveled against the PMLN government when Shahbaz Sharif, chief minister of Punjab, rushed to America in September 1999 and asked Rick Inderfurth, then Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, to issue a public warning to the military against any attempt to overthrow the Sharif government.

There's more. The author of the notorious memo, Mansoor Ijaz, is an avowed hater of the ISI and GHQ. He admits he was trying to weigh in with the Americans to help the civilian government in Pakistan cut its military high command down to size. But he has ended up cooperating with the same military to provide evidence that Ambassador Haqqani was working at the behest of his "boss" to undermine the military. This has weakened the civilian setup by championing the cause of the military, which is the opposite of what Mr. Ijaz had intended. It is even more ironical that the peg of his article - which referred to the anti-military "memo" - was announced in order to give "authenticity" to his argument and make him a credible source of analysis but its revelation has robbed him of all credibility as a confidential interlocutor of substance in the future.

In the meanwhile, one conspiracy theory has surfaced. It is that the ISI found out about the memo and persuaded Mansoor Ijaz to write an article and then make it public so that it could target the Zardari government and oust Mr. Haqqani for being a thorn on various issues ranging from the Raymond Davis affair to the OBL operation. This is incorrect. The ISI only got into the act after Mr. Ijaz published his article. It saw an opportunity and it went into action, persuading him to reveal all and exploiting the developing situation to get Mr. Haqqani.

What now? The PMLN has petitioned the SC to step into the fray and help determine what happened and fix responsibility. But this route will merely reap propaganda points for the opposition by asking embarrassing questions about President Zardari, COAS Kayani and DG ISI Pasha and is unlikely to succeed in convicting anyone if due process of law is followed because the evidence is tenuous. The government may also ask the Foreign Office in association with any other organ of government to conduct an inquiry. But that too is not likely to go far. Or Mr. Haqqani may be asked to sue Mr. Ijaz in the UK for defamation and prove his innocence. If he should succeed in obtaining a favourable judgment on the basis of the strict laws of evidence, he would get off the hook and live to crow about his persecution at the hands of the military and media.

This episode has left one question unanswered. The memo is based on the plea that, in the aftermath of the OBL operation, the military was threatening the civilian government and destabilizing it. This doesn't make sense. The military was bruised and shaken at that time. There were grumblings about its performance and culpability in its rank and file and in civil society too. Under the circumstances, why would Mr. Haqqani or his unnamed "boss" pretend otherwise? Indeed, why would the Americans give such a false claim any credibility?

Mr. Haqqani has resigned not because he has been proven guilty. The resignation was demanded at gun-point by a military establishment that is at odds with America and saw him as unsympathetic to its strategic vision. That contradiction is bound to increase. The next ambassador, Sherry Rehman, will find her job cut out for her.

Source: The Friday Times, Lahore