Zardari dissociates from memo controversy

Zardari dissociatesISLAMABAD: The growing controversy over the treacherous ‘memo’, which has generated a heated debate on the issue of national security dragging President Asif Ali Zardari in the fray for allegedly having schemed to convey his fear of a military coup in Pakistan to the US administration through a senior diplomat, purportedly Ambassador Hussain Haqqani, is most likely to create a wedge between the country’s military and civil leaderships as it is being believed that this conspiratorial plan, which could not have been initiated by Mansoor Ijaz on his own, was conceived in Washington with Islamabad’s consent.

Though President Zardari, in a meeting of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)’s core committee on Friday, dissociated himself from the ‘memo’ conspiracy and told his top aides that in case he had wanted to convey such a message, many other options were available to him instead of choosing Hussain Haqqani, the vibes coming from the General Headquarters (GHQ) suggested that business was not as usual, with Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani restlessly shuttling between Rawalpindi and Islamabad to discuss this issue with the president and the prime minister.

A source confirmed to Pakistan Today that the government had been asked to summon Hussain Haqqani to Pakistan for a “briefing” to establish the authenticity of the ‘memo’ and trace its origin. However, the source, who is closely monitoring this issue, doubts that Hussain Haqqani would come to Pakistan as he would possibly prefer to send his resignation to the president instead of being questioned in Islamabad. It was learnt that the government had not yet decided to remove Ambassador Haqqani without hearing him. The president told the PPP’s core committee that Hussain Haqqani was expected to arrive in a day or two.

Haqqani was instructed to fly back on Monday but he stayed in Washington citing already scheduled engagements.While the rumours of a political change in the country have throughout been in circulation ever since the present dispensation is in place, the clouds of uncertainty started thickening with the contents of this ‘memo’ – allegedly drafted by a “senior diplomat” on the instruction of no other than President Asif Ali Zardari – appearing in the media.

Notwithstanding the credentials of Mansoor Ijaz, the contents of this conspiratorial plot have shaken the country’s security establishment besides threatening the political setup that had been beset with one after another, mostly self-created, controversy that increased the trust deficit between the military and civilian leaders instead of reducing it. As the detractors of the government had already started fueling the rumour machinery to churn out reports of a political change before the Senate elections, the ‘memo’, until investigated to establish its veracity, would continue dogging the relations between the civil and military leaderships with the analysts and constitutional expert considering it a conspiracy and treason by the government against the state, and opposition parties also raising a storm on the issue.

Meanwhile, the government has been advised not to let a parliamentary committee quiz Pakistan’s envoy on his return to Islamabad. President Zardari’s close aide and legal adviser Senator Babar Awan opposed the suggestion of some members of the PPP’s core committee that Ambassador Haqqani should appear before a parliamentary committee, arguing that it would open Pandora’s Box. However, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani threw the ball in the court of the president and said he would act in accordance with whatever the president decided.

Speaking to the members of the PPP’s core committee, the president, who the source said did not appear upset as he was in his usual spirits, expressed his hatred for Mansoor Ijaz, calling him a dubious character. “I could have directly spoken to President Obama, who is pro-democracy and does not like military intervention,” the source quoted him as saying. The source also said the prime minister too was equally relaxed, giving an impression that the situation was not as serious as it was being portrayed.

However, another source believed that Mansoor Ijaz, a billionaire Pakistani-American businessman, had equally high stakes attached to the controversy as he would ruin his “reputation and credibility” in case it was proved that he had fabricated this ‘memo’ and that it had no link to Ambassador Haqqani or President Zardari. “This makes one take the memo seriously,” he argued.

However, he did not see the civil-military relations worsening to the extent of military intervention as, he opined, the change, if it took place, would be within the constitutional framework. “The evolving political situation is suggestive of a constitutional change and the next two months are very important,” he said. – PT