The controversial memo that sought to rein in the country’s military establishment, authentic or not, has taken its first casualty – a civilian.
Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States Hussain Haqqani resigned from his post on Tuesday following a meeting attended by the president, the prime minister, and the army and intelligence chiefs.
“I have requested PM Gilani to accept my resignation,” Haqqani, accused of drafting a memo that sought US assistance to rein in Pakistan’s military establishment, said in a Twitter post shortly after the meeting.
Resigned, or asked to resign
Haqqani’s implicit claim of submitting a resignation voluntarily was promptly contradicted by the Prime Minister House.
A statement issued by the premier’s office shortly afterwards said Haqqani was asked to submit his resignation, in order to pave the way for proper investigation.
Meanwhile, in an apparent attempt to defuse tensions between the civilian and military leadership, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani ordered a detailed investigation “at an appropriate level”.
The statement, however, did not elaborate which forum would probe this matter.
“All concerned would be afforded sufficient and fair opportunity to present their views,” the premier’s spokesperson said. No timeframe, however, was given regarding the investigations.
Out, but not down
Despite submitting his resignation, Haqqani remained adamant that he had nothing to do with the memo.
“I have resigned to bring closure to this meaningless controversy threatening our fledgling democracy,” Haqqani said in a statement released after his resignation.
“I still maintain that I did not conceive, write or distribute the memo,” Haqqani said, adding that the resignation was “not about the memo ... this is about bigger things.”
Sources close to Haqqani claim he put a strong fight when quizzed jointly by the civilian and military leadership.
He raised several questions in his defence at the meeting, particularly regarding the meeting between Director General ISI Lt. General Ahmed Shuja Pasha and Mansoor Ijaz in London, sources added.
The ISI chief, however, brought out ‘evidence’ and findings of the investigation the agency conducted to prove the authenticity of the memo, and the role played by Haqqani, sources said.
Venue raises eyebrows
Unlike the previous sittings of the troika at the presidency, the meeting of the top civil and military leadership on Tuesday took place at the Prime Minister House.
It was the first time that President Asif Ali Zardari went to the PM House for a formal meeting of the country’s top leadership, despite being the supreme commander of the armed forces.
The venue change set the capital’s speculation mill in motion, with some terming it ominous due to the president’s alleged role in the controversy, that may also have been in question. When Ijaz cited Haqqani as his source for the memo, he claimed it was drafted with the president’s ‘blessings’.
“I do not believe today that Zardari had any knowledge of the specifics of the memo … I do believe he gave a blanket approval to Haqqani,” Ijaz had claimed earlier in an interview.
Ijaz ‘welcomes’ resignation
Ijaz, in his reaction on Haqqani’s resignation, said he respected the decision of its acceptance, a television channel reported.
He also welcomed the announcement of launching a high-level investigation.
In a statement, Ijaz said that Pakistani agencies had asked him to cooperate “in order to dig out the truth”. He said he would extend his help, if contacted by the government of Pakistan. Sources added that Ijaz may be arriving in Pakistan late Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, sources said the government is considering several candidates as Haqqani’s successor, including former ISI chief General (retd) Ahsaan, former envoy to US Abida Hussain, Pakistan’s permanent representative to UN Hussain Haroon and Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir.
Opposition prepares petition
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is likely to file a petition in the Supreme Court on the issue of secrete memo today (Wednesday).
Sources told The Express Tribune that the party’s legal team has compiled the petition which is likely to be filed today. When contacted for confirmation, PML-N information secretary Ahsan Iqbal confirmed completion of the petition. It has been compiled following PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif’s announcement at the Faisalabad rally, Iqbal said. Nawaz had said that his party would approach the court if there is no impartial inquiry into the event.
(Read: Memogate claims its first victim)
With additional input from Reuters.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 23rd, 2011.
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