Memogate: Husain Haqqani caught in web of scandal

Published: January 6, 2012
Husain Haqqani exits the Supreme Court after meeting his lawyer Asma Jehangir, in Haqqani's defence in the secret memo scandal case, in Islamabad on December 22, 2011. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

Husain Haqqani exits the Supreme Court after meeting his lawyer Asma Jehangir, in Haqqani's defence in the secret memo scandal case, in Islamabad on December 22, 2011. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s former envoy to the United States, Husain Haqqani, is no stranger to intrigue. But even he didn’t anticipate finding himself effectively imprisoned amid a scandal involving a shady memo, a businessman with unclear motives and allegations of treason.      

He is caught up in a tense stand-off between Pakistan’s civilian leaders and its generals over a memo that accused the army of plotting a coup after the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden last May.

Now fearing for his life, he has taken refuge in the opulent hilltop home of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in Islamabad.

The scandal broke three months ago when businessman Mansoor Ijaz, writing in a column in the Financial Times, said a senior Pakistani diplomat had asked that the memo be delivered to the US Defense Department for help in reining in the military.

Ijaz later identified the diplomat as Haqqani. No evidence has emerged that the military was plotting a coup and the Pentagon at the time dismissed the memo as not credible.

Haqqani returned to Pakistan in November and resigned as ambassador in a bid to end the crisis. He denies that he had anything to do with the memo and says he is fighting the traditional foes of civilian government in Pakistan.

“Since the 1980s, there are powerful interests within the permanent state apparatus as well as outside who want to control the definition of what it means to be a Pakistani patriot,” Haqqani told Reuters on Friday at the prime minister’s residence.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court set up a judicial commission last week to investigate the memo, keeping Haqqani nervous.

He has some allies still in Washington. Senators Mark Kirk, John McCain and Joe Lieberman issued a joint statement on Thursday decrying his treatment.

“We are increasingly troubled by Ambassador Haqqani’s treatment since he returned home to Pakistan, including the travel ban imposed on him,” the senators said.

“We urge Pakistani authorities to resolve this matter swiftly and consistent with civilian rule of law and to prevent the judicial commission investigating Ambassador Haqqani from becoming a political tool for revenge.”

Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani last month dismissed coup rumours as speculation and said the army supported democracy.

Pakistan’s relationship with the United States is just as contentious. Anti-Americanism is rampant, and any whiff of collusion with Washington can lead to accusations of treason, which Haqqani has – so far – successfully deflected.

But now, the “j’accuse” brigade in the press have grown louder and more visceral, and Haqqani fears for his life should he step outside the prime minister’s well-guarded grounds.

“I’m not a prisoner, I’m a guest. But for all practical purposes, I can’t go out, because what if someone shoots me like they did Salmaan Taseer?” he said.

Haqqani’s former lawyer doubts justice would prevail in any legal proceedings against him. And merely associating with the man who once enjoyed Pakistan’s premier diplomatic post is seen as risky.

“I want to meet my client either in my space, my office, or the court, or somewhere I feel is relatively bug-free,” said Asma Jahangir, when she still represented him.

She refused to represent Haqqani before the judicial commission, saying it was an overreach by the court and a victory for the security establishment.

Haqqani, for his part, spends his days reading and emailing friends. He is ploughing through a massive biography of Tamerlane the Great and Barbara Tuchman’s “March of Folly,” her opus to nations’ relentless pursuit of policy harmful to their interests.

Perhaps Tuchman’s book has something to say to the man who says Pakistan would best be served by civilian control of the military and better relations with the United States.

“It’s a double-bind,” he said. “Civilian-military, US-Pakistan. I’m on the wrong side of both.”

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Reader Comments (13)

  • mohammad naeem
    Jan 6, 2012 - 8:33PM

    sir u r brlliant but sorry we in pakistan like dumb ppl as our representatives!!


  • jai zardari
    Jan 6, 2012 - 8:42PM

    iI can only say that Haqani Haq par hai
    na haq us ka haq mara ga raha hai


  • Jan 6, 2012 - 8:53PM

    @mohammad naeem:
    Sad to see young people are being tool of subversion. Maybe try reading his books and learn which side of Pakistan he is before browning your nose.


  • mohammad naeem
    Jan 6, 2012 - 9:10PM

    the problem is not his point of view. But HH s movement is banned without proven guilty. He has remained most sought after ambasador at most difficult place and now world is at awe how we are treating him!


  • Pro Bono Publico
    Jan 6, 2012 - 9:22PM

    Haqqani is reading “Barbara Tuchman’s “March of Folly,” her opus to nations’ relentless pursuit of policy harmful to their interests”
    Perhaps you offer a brief gist of the book to Zardari and Gilani. And implore them to stop damaging Pakistan further.


  • Khadim
    Jan 6, 2012 - 9:40PM

    How come it’s only western media outlets who are whining, moaning or missing him.
    This article is third in a series of stories from western circles.

    I see a trend emerging there, hundreds of Pakistani media houses and none has considered him worthy enough.


  • Khadim
    Jan 6, 2012 - 9:53PM

    Can reuters show how Bradley Manning is being treated ……allegedly he is in solitary confinement awaiting a trial…..,, Internet or no internet, never mind pompous , self righteous titlled books.


  • Jan 6, 2012 - 10:03PM

    @mohammad naeem:
    Maybe his movement is banned due to threat to his life. He is very important in very sensitive national matter. As for world, they only believe what MSM will tell them. We should just concentrate on finding truth from him.


  • tkan
    Jan 6, 2012 - 10:42PM

    Poor Haqqani!! You guys made monster of a good man. He served Pakistan well as an ambassador. He has good intentions for pakistan and look how he is being treated..Recommend

  • Babloo
    Jan 7, 2012 - 12:14AM

    Mr Haqanni must seek refuge and asylum in a foreign embassy. He cannot escape pak isi/army . Bye the way, the memo he allegedly delivered which charges Pak army/isi of sponsoring and promoting terrorism, is allegedly 100% correct.


  • Sabrina Khan
    Jan 7, 2012 - 2:22AM

    Is this strange that US Senators are speaking up for Haqqani’s rights? they should speak up for Bradley Manning’s human rights..? if there is a prisoner of conscience it is Bradley Manning and not Hussain Haqqani..


  • vasan
    Jan 7, 2012 - 7:41AM

    HH is guilty or not, let the Parliament and/or courts decide. But the fact that he has taken “asylum” in Pak PM’s house speaks a volume of whom he is afraid of and why. Given that scenario, one does not expect to get justice.


  • Factsnotfairies
    Jan 11, 2012 - 9:29PM

    This is probably because Pakistani media outlets have no conception of what an academic is or what they do and know.


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