ISLAMABAD: Former ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani, currently embroiled in the Memogate case, fought a second front on Tuesday as he faced a tough session with the Abbottabad commission.
The ex-ambassador, who was forced to resign last month over the memo scandal, used the opportunity with the commission probing the May 2 Osama bin Laden raid to present his case. He also pointed out, indignantly, that his services during a crucial period when the country was facing the threat of sanctions from both the US and UN had not been recognised.
Haqqani, referring to the time following the Osama bin Laden raid, said that the UN Security Council president at the time had issued a strong statement calling on all states to work together against terrorism, bring to justice its perpetrators, organisers and sponsors and hold those responsible accountable. The statement also welcomed the fact that “Osama bin Laden will never again be able to perpetrate such acts of terrorism”.
At this time, the former envoy emphasised, the mood in the US towards Pakistan was a hostile one. He added that US officials pointed to the Security Council president’s statement to justify unilateral action in Abbottabad, in disregard of Pakistan’s sovereignty.
‘My job was to prevent sanctions’
It was against this hostile backdrop, Haqqani said in his statement, that he was tasked to make amends and convey Pakistan’s concerns to the US, adding that his assignment was a “tough and thankless” one.
“As such, the task before the Pakistan embassy in Washington was to ensure that the negative mood in the US does not result in aggressive sanctions or restrictions on Pakistan by the US Congress,” his statement, which was later issued to the media, said.
The recently besieged former envoy, perhaps a little resentfully in the wake of omnipresent accusations, highlighted in detail his role in giving US politicians the Pakistani side of the story.
His statement added: “Over the next several days, I appeared on numerous US television and radio programs, addressed several think tanks and met with dozens of US Congressmen and Senators to give them the Pakistani perspective and to defend our institutions of state”. Specifically, Haqqani said, he was defending the institutions against charges of violating UN resolutions and providing sanctuary to the Al Qaeda leader or turning a blind eye to his presence in the country.
Allegations of issuing visas
Besides elaborating on his role in handling the delicate situation, Haqqani also had to answer some pressing questions presented by the commission. His statement addressed allegations that an ‘excessive’ amount of visas had been issued to Americans preceding the May 2 raid, specifically people associated with the Central Intelligence Agency.
Haqqani said that during his posting in Washington, the embassy had been conservative in issuing visas and at one point, (from April to June 2010) had held back issuing any official visas because clearance from Islamabad had not been received.
This in turn had created a backlog and also resulted in a political issue with the US government, which was resolved by the prime minister authorising the ambassador some discretion in issuing visas vide his letter dated July 14 2010, he said.
He added however, that despite being granted this authorization, “the embassy continued to refer visa applications of US officials from military and allied branches to the respective security agencies”.
The former ambassador also said that statistics showed that the total number of visas issued from Washington for US officials did not increase in any dramatic way over the last few years.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 21st, 2011.