It’s bad enough that his involvement in the Mansur Ijaz saga will likely lose Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, his job; what is even worse is that it will overshadow the stellar work he did in Washington. Admiral Mike Mullen, the recently-retired chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed that he had received a memo written by Ijaz, supposedly at the behest of Haqqani, asking the US to reign in the ISI. Haqqani has tendered his resignation and, although it is yet to be accepted, his role in this affair may well signal the end of his tenure.
Haqqani has been something of a political chameleon throughout his career, starting as a student activist of the Islami Jamiat Taleba, shifting to the PML-N before finally settling on the PPP. But the one constant in his life has been a principled opposition to military dominance over civilian affairs. It is in keeping with this ideology and character, then, that Haqqani would seek to curb the military’s power. But it is how he chose to go about it that is so galling. In doing so, he has provided ammunition to those of his critics who claim that his true loyalties lie with the US, not Pakistan. As such, his actions may end up having an effect opposite to what he had intended. This controversy will also strengthen the military’s hand in castigating the civilian government as sell-outs to the Americans.
Given that the Presidency issued a lengthy statement denouncing Ijaz as a fantasist, Haqqani will likely be the scapegoat and President Zardari will deny all knowledge of his actions. Such an interpretation of events stretches the bounds of credibility but may unfortunately be necessary to keep the military satiated. Amid the torrent of criticism that is sure to come Haqqani’s way in the coming days, though, there are some things that need to be remembered. The military needs to be operating under the authority of the elected government, even if asking the US to arrange that for us is foolish in the extreme. And if Haqqani does leave his post, we will have lost our most effective lobbyist for the country, one who kept US aid flowing and negotiated a satisfactory resolution to the Raymond Davis saga. All the right-wingers who feel jubilation at his demise should keep this in mind amidst their celebrations.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 18th, 2011.