The steno and the memo

Published: November 21, 2011

If there is one phrase that helps sum up the current state of memo-gate, it would be that ‘There are limits to genius, but none to stupidity’. Everything about this sordid affair beggars disbelief, yet it seems to become truer by the day, especially after Mike Mullen’s volte-face on the receipt of the memo.

First Mansoor Ijaz. When he wrote his op-ed for the Financial Times, he blew the lid on an affair he was supposed to conduct in utmost secrecy. In an excellent interview conducted by Barkha Dutt of NDTV, Mansoor explained this by claiming he needed an authentic anecdote for the policy prescription in his article, which was to try and force the disbandment of the ISI-S wing. The same spy agency he was out to destroy, he is now happy to share evidence with.

So, the real reason for the disclosure is he had trouble filling up space in an article he was supposed to write? His other reason for becoming embroiled in this fiasco, according to him, was to serve Pakistan and US interests by ensuring democracy was safe. The very democracy he has now plunged into an existential crisis because, I suppose, he had an editor’s cut-off date to meet.

But, in a piece for Foreign Policy magazine by Josh Robin, Mansoor has a different reason as to why he wrote his op-ed. There he says he wrote the piece to defend Mullen’s treatment at the hands of the Pakistani press, yes you read that right, post his last Congressional testimony where he criticised the ISI.

Mansoor Ijaz didn’t come off well in the NDTV interview. If anything, his “I have powerful friends” spiel would have sounded like shallow name-dropping if the setting was different. But like it or not, he is centre stage in all of this.

Immediately after the OBL raid, most commentators will agree that the armed forces of Pakistan were feeling the sting of severe unpopularity. Unless there is evidence contrary to this that will be made public later, there was no talk of a coup; in fact it was untenable then.

The premise that Pakistan was in danger of another bout of military rule for the memo to be written is incredulous. But, as I said before, world politics is no stranger to stupidity and false premises spearing actions. This is Pakistan’s WMD moment.

Now let’s say for a moment that Husain Haqqani is guilty of writing the memo as alleged. There is very little doubt that it is a treasonous offence, offering another state a unilateral deal of internal policy actions without any legal authority bypasses all codes of conduct.

But, one thing needs to be acknowledged. The gist of the memo, if it were ever to be implemented, would be good for Pakistan. There needs to be a fair enquiry into how OBL remained in Pakistan all this time and anyone found complicit needs to be tried. We need to strike against all militants on our soil, Pakistan is not their oasis. We need to bring down all militant groups who conduct foreign terrorism from Pakistani safe havens, including those who carried out the Mumbai attacks.

The only real problems with the memo are that it offers Americans say into who would be a member of the enquiry commission, confirms Pakistan’s armed forces role in supporting terrorists and makes offers on our nuclear programme. These are, of course, substantial problems.

If we accept the premise that the civilian side in our government was scared of a coup by the army, then it’s really one treason to prevent another. And we would have never gotten to this point if the army was truly subservient to the people of this country and its elected representatives. There is very little doubt who has been calling the shots for some time now.

If, as is now increasingly being spun by Mansoor Ijaz, Haqqani did this on his own without the full knowledge of Zardari, then there is no question the ambassador needs to resign at the very least. But it is a point to ponder that the clamour for resignations is never as strong for those who have been exposed by WikiLeaks as being in bed with the Americans, for the abject failure in PNS Mehran and the total unawares with which they found Americans in Abbottabad.

Is one truly any worse than the other? The civil-military imbalance is out in the open once again. We often criticise this PPP government for its ineptness and corruption and rightly so, as a sham democracy. But I suspect we are really a sham democracy for other reasons.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 22nd, 2011.

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Reader Comments (38)

  • toti873
    Nov 21, 2011 - 10:49PM

    Well written. It boils down to civilian and army coexistence. Army has the power and civilians have the majority of people who voted them in. But a large number of Pakistanis prefer dictatorship to democratic rule. We have had army boots marching in Islamabad few times and we all know that when they do, stay there for a decade, without any rule of law. So whenever there is friction, the press and media start shooting the civilian rule. Even Nawaz, who was dismissed by the army, is now supporting them. We also know that if anybody stands upright and face the army with the right to overrule them, end up in jails, gallows and packed abroad.
    Whoever is telling the truth, is unknown, but I will remain with PPP government until proven otherwise. Because it is our elected government which rules according to law of the land, however inaptly.


  • Nadir
    Nov 21, 2011 - 10:54PM

    This is not about Mansoor Ijaz, a self promoting Fox News contributor, who was a very vocal supporter of the US invasion of Iraq. The problem is that a proper investigation, turning to the courts etc be damned, as any oppourtunity to see Zardari sweat is more important than due process. The fact that a US national can hold the entire state hostage due to his allegations, is a clear case of foreign interference that we are always railing against, but ironically this same individual, who actively supports American adventurism across the globe, seems to have made common cause with Zardari’s detractors. PML-N and PTI supporters are using the word of someone who claimed that Iraq had WMD’s to push Zardari into the corner. As for the ISI cheif and the COAS, well, when giant ego’s collide all hell breaks loose. And I was dumb enough to think that with over 100 thousand troops deployed in the West of the country we are at a state of war, yet this affair seems to be the only prominent thing that demands our Chiefs attention.


  • Parvez
    Nov 21, 2011 - 11:30PM

    This whole sordid affair is confusing to say the least and you Sir, have confused me further.
    One thing I understand is that damage has been done. If damage control is botched, which most likely it will be, it will only make matters worse – but as the man in the street would say ‘ Worse ?? you’ve got to be joking ‘.


  • Asher
    Nov 21, 2011 - 11:35PM

    A very sensible take on memo-gate. Well done Fasi Zaka!


  • OhLaLa
    Nov 21, 2011 - 11:45PM

    Fasi, no matter how much you spin this, the reality remains that the mess PPP finds itself in is its own doing, no one else’s, not even the army for once. They have made life so miserable for the larger public, through utter failure of its policies for the common man, that right nobody feels sorry for them’. If you want to ward off the army then start performing, start delivering to the public who voted you, so that when things go south people south people dont start clamouring for a God-sent coup to relieve them. Just look at Turkey, in 10 years, one man Erdogan managed to corner the army and strengthened the democratic system. So no its not the armies fault, the parties in Pakistan themselves dont want a functioning democratic system. Haqqani affair also shows that liberals in this country are their own worst enemies..


  • majidkhanr
    Nov 22, 2011 - 12:28AM

    Wow. really man , you have the same Opinion, Hamid Mir is presenting in different Talk shows. Seems, you want to pay for his friendship or you his conspiracy theories have really inspired


    Nov 22, 2011 - 12:34AM

    Pseudo intellectual Mr Fasi Zaka!!!!


  • Umar
    Nov 22, 2011 - 12:57AM

    Yeah right, give ISI under democratic govt. so that instead of securing national interest they become personal bodyguards of these chor/luterays just like some other anti terrorism units e.g Elite Force
    And yes about nuclear assets, sure why not, that too under democratic govt. so that they sell them rather present them on their daddys birthday.
    Present setup is perfect because it
    s secure and reliable,these politicians given a chance will even sell their mothers for some easy money.
    And talking about traitors, Constitution is pretty clear about treason i.e. Hang the traitor.
    And how come everyone has started whining about ISI-S wing when nobody was aware of its existence until yesterday or at least they were not whining about it like they are doing today, it is similar to Al-Qaeda which did not exist until 9/11 happened and after that it was Al-Qaeda everywhere.
    I seriously don`t understand the purpose of this article. And yes people of Pakistan are much better with Military Rule. At least a Boot makes them reach their office on time and work properly, Govt. institutions are way better when a Man in Uniform is there to keep the workers on track.


  • ArifQ
    Nov 22, 2011 - 1:02AM

    Right On! Here lies the crux of the problem, Pakistan army continues to manipulate events, resort to blatant subterfuge yet not be questioned cause they hold the biggest guns in the house. By the way Fasi, only reason why Mansur Ijaz is not implicating Zardari is because he has a very low opinion of Mr. Zardari and does not consider him capable enough. Totally agree with your thesis, take care


  • Arindom
    Nov 22, 2011 - 1:18AM

    Saudis have been interfering in Pakistani internal affairs since decades. So much so that deals for Nawaj, Mussharraf, Zardari, et al, had to be concluded in Riyadh.
    Isn’t this treason??


  • yassar
    Nov 22, 2011 - 1:20AM

    Thank God for the army. Gives writers a lot of food for thought.


  • Maryam
    Nov 22, 2011 - 1:26AM

    Normally, we Pakistanis are in denial of bad things happening to Pakistan and put the blame of everything entirely on RAW/MOSAD/CIA/Jews/Christians/Hindus but this time we are very much sure that it is 100 per cent TRUE. The reason is simple: This time it is Zardari, the elected president of Pakistan, is under take. It is a pity of us :(


  • Ali Tanoli
    Nov 22, 2011 - 1:32AM

    I will say one word Mughals collapsed just because of Muslims Traiters Wazirs and SafeersRecommend

  • asif
    Nov 22, 2011 - 2:29AM

    What exactly are you trying to say in this un-focused piece ? What is your point of view in the matter really ?


  • Raj NJ
    Nov 22, 2011 - 2:32AM

    I disagree with the statement
    “Unless there is evidence contrary to this that will be made public later, there was no talk of a coup; in fact it was untenable then.”

    If any inquiry commission is set out by civilian govt. to find out how OBL is living untouched then it is a threat to protectors. The coup, offense being the best part of defence is very much possible to protect their skin however unpopular with masses.

    Give proper media spin that ineffective Civil govt made it possible for OBL to hide..


  • Mirza
    Nov 22, 2011 - 3:08AM

    @Ali Tanoli: Moghals collapsed soon after the dictatorial and tyrant rule of Aurangzeb. He put his old father in jail and blinded his brothers and later killed them all. He was tyrant not just against the non Muslims bout also Muslims as well. While Akbar and others are still loved in India the is the most hated king. He inherited the largest empire and could not gain popularity due to his dictatorial and fundementalist behavior.


  • ProudAfghan
    Nov 22, 2011 - 3:21AM

    @Ali Tanoli wrote:
    “I will say one word Mughals collapsed just because of Muslims Traiters Wazirs and Safeers”

    There are two major differences 1. Pakistan is not the moghal is a banana republic 2. Pakistan has already failed. No need for any traitors.


  • Deb
    Nov 22, 2011 - 3:24AM

    @Ali Tanoli

    You have failed in history test my friend.Read Pakistani text books, it will tell you that it’s the Hindus who conspired with British to bring down Mughals.
    What it won’t tell you is that India belonged to Hindus before the Mughal came, so morally there is nothing wrong for hindus to side with british to recover the lost grounds.
    It’s another matter that the British didn’t need Hindus to bring down the Mughal empire, because by that time the empire for all practical purpose was confined within the city walls of old delhi.


  • Nov 22, 2011 - 5:12AM

    Everything from a die hard parliamentarian comes down to OH IT’S ARMY’S FAULT.


  • vasan
    Nov 22, 2011 - 6:47AM

    I think it was great idea on Mullen’s part to confirm the memo not immediately but at a later point. Look at the way they have diverted the army’s attention from the Afgan muddle. Now the army is out for blood within Pakistan thru the memo. This way US has achieved its objective of directing the Pak army’s attention from supporting the Afgan haqqani’s group in plotting attacks in Afganistan. Whether you agree or not, looks like it was well planned admission by Mullen.Recommend

  • Truth Seeker
    Nov 22, 2011 - 9:16AM

    @Ali Tanoli:
    One should be thankful that Mughal Empire fell, otherwise South Asia would have been no better than the ‘Horn of Africa’.


  • Reasoner
    Nov 22, 2011 - 10:05AM

    A ver well-written and timely article indeed !


  • Mirza
    Nov 22, 2011 - 10:52AM

    Great and balanced Op Ed, thanks for that.


  • Shoaib Mir
    Nov 22, 2011 - 1:12PM

    Excellent analysis! If it goes against the flow one doesn’t have to necessarily suspend one’s mental faculties and play to the gallery by mindlessly criticizing any government as a rule. The way our opposition, the media and most analysts sitting on the fence, including most known detractors are behaving since the “volatile” Memo suddenly erupted on the scene, is not totally unexpected. It’s like, as the proverbial story goes, someone shouting that the dog is running away with your ear, and you immediately start running after the dog instead of just confirming whether it’s true or not by touching your ear!!!


  • Sadia
    Nov 22, 2011 - 1:32PM

    well said … Pakistan’s WMD moment … as in ‘Words of Mass Deception’


  • Abubakar
    Nov 22, 2011 - 1:54PM

    and IK knew it already :S …. establishment connection are being opening up day by day …


  • AN
    Nov 22, 2011 - 2:08PM

    The theatre of the absurd. world is stunned at this display of sheer military/Civil strife and power struggle. All involved should resign. Gen Musharraf should be brought back to steer the country again.


  • Ali Noor
    Nov 22, 2011 - 3:10PM

    “We often criticise this PPP government for its ineptness and corruption and rightly so, as a sham democracy. But I suspect we are really a sham democracy for other reasons.”
    Well said.


  • Marc
    Nov 22, 2011 - 3:22PM

    I envy the people of Pakistan. In my part of country, the newspaper brings only depressing news.

    But, in Pakistan, the newspaper is full of humor ! Pakistanis must be starting their day reading their morning newspaper laughing their heads off.

    Lucky people with great sense of humor !


  • Hina khokhar
    Nov 22, 2011 - 5:57PM

    @proudAfghan:Look who is talking!!


  • Ali Tanoli
    Nov 22, 2011 - 6:13PM

    @Fasi sahab
    Dont worry man pakistan was proud spoochy of Taje Queens after 1947 Quaid told them we will stay loyal to Queen and now across the Atlantic nothing wrong with that.


  • Midhat
    Nov 22, 2011 - 8:26PM

    The gist of the memo, if it were ever to be implemented, would be good for Pakistan.

    So what is this article suggesting.? Foriegn Interference? Dont we have enough of that already.? We are not a nation is denial. Being the biggest victim of terrorism our selves, we do realize we are getting infested, but Mr. Zaki we are also quite aware that Blackwater and ” Raymond Davis Like characters were definately not ISI or our Army Products.

    Stop suggesting all the time that We are the sole proprietors of terrorism. We realize we have problems within our sleves but getting help from other war mongering countries to fix them is definately not a smart move.


  • Ali Tanoli
    Nov 22, 2011 - 8:37PM

    @Truth seeker
    India Pak is not diff than Africa if u bothers to see poverty in countries and shanty town


  • Mukhtar Ahmed
    Nov 22, 2011 - 8:52PM

    Memo if implemented would have done good to the country and got rid of the corrupt government and that is what it was aimed at?


  • kishan siraskar
    Nov 22, 2011 - 9:01PM

    No democracy can hope to survive with a constitutional provision for state religion. The umbrela of theocracy becomes an easy shelter for military to thrive and biased history to be fed to its citizens right from childhood. All successful democracies today have kept religion away as a private matter of faith of individuals. This allows the State to be progressive and fair to all iits citizens. In a theocratic State even a balanced Judiciary finds it hard to do justice to a minority member without risking wrath of fundamentalists as has happened a number of times in Pakistan. Pakistan does not have to look as far as Turky as a model democracy when its blood -related neighbour India can provide enough guidance !


  • Midhat
    Nov 22, 2011 - 9:27PM

    @kishan siraskar
    No offense but Even India needs guidance. Gujrat Massacre, Babri Masjid incident and popular racist parties like Shiv Sena don’t sugest India as a role model country to be taken Guidance from. Both Nations are facing and have faced similar problems. One Get highlighted more, lets admit it.


  • vickram
    Nov 23, 2011 - 2:05AM


    FYI: Shiv Sena is not a Racist party. It is just a counter-jihadi party, similar to parties now emerging in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and UK.

    If there were no Jihadi mindset, then there would be no Shiv Senas. More the Jihadi cry, more popular right wing parties become. You see this all over the world, don’t you?


  • kishan siraskar
    Nov 23, 2011 - 10:59PM

    Thanks. I agree. But there is a vital difference. For example the violence against minorities in Gujarath is slowly but surely getting justice and I hope Narendra Modi will not escape the liability, sooner or later. In India one can criticize extremism amongst Hindus or ridicule some Hindu customs or practices. Such a thing in Pakistan against the State religion is.a blasphemy .The fanatics will not spare even a minister if he makes such a mistake He gets killed. The killer becomes a hero. If the killer is convicted the judge fears for his life. Well there are hard core Hindus like Shiv Sena here but they do not enjoy large following. And the constitution guarantees equal protection -rather special protection to minorities-and that is a redeeming feature.I wish Pakistan and you peace and prosperity!


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