Memogate And After

Ambassador Hussain Haqqani’s exit has opened the door for a lot more exposures emerging from the twists and turns of the curious “Memo to Mullen” episode.

Many questions call for answers.

n Was it appropriate and prudent for an Ambassador to attempt to manoeuvre a deep involvement of a foreign power in his country’s internal affairs?

n Was he doing it by himself or was he a cat’s paw in undertaking a risky venture?

n Knowing the record of the chosen “go-between”, did he foresee the possible adverse fallout and act of betrayal?

n Was it realistic and right to expect that Admiral Mullen would take up the matter and do something to initiate action on the lines proposed?

n What motivation did Mansoor Ijaz have in agreeing to pick up Haqqani’s plan to tame the military in Pakistan?

n What pushed Ijaz to turn his guns on Haqqani? Considering that he as a pro-active American citizen welcomed the idea of furthering US interests in Pakistan to the extent of effecting a paradigm shift in the civil-military relations, or was it something in the nature of a personal tiff between two oversmart individuals that caused the switch?

n As Haqqani was known to be the President’s man and dealt directly with him as Ambassador, how come at the crunch time questioning of his conduct, the venue was not the presidency, but the Prime Minister’s House. It was the Army Chief and head of the ISI, who confronted him with the evidence of his involvement in preparing and dispatching of the memo (based on the hard material provided by Ijaz to Lieutenant General Shuja Pasha when the latter met him in London). The President and Prime Minister found themselves driven to yield to the demand for the Ambassador’s resignation. Haqqani with all his wits and eloquence was cornered and failed to defend himself successfully.

n Haqqani’s removal on the spot has been followed by a quick replacement in the person of Sherry Rehman. Will Haqqani get another assignment – he having served the President so very faithfully for so many years?

n What has been the attitude and stand of the US government during these high drama developments? How come there was no serious move in Washington to provide comfort and some indication of a benign inclination for Haqqani’s interests – he having done so well for the US concerns relating to Pakistan. One may, as samples, recall his services to the US government when he went out of the way to help negotiate the Kerry-Lugar legislation and supported the move to bend it against Pakistan’s sovereignty as well as the military’s standing and operations, and later when he was irresponsibly issued a large number of visas to dubious American nationals without a proper security check.

n Will Sherry Rehman whose tenure as Ambassador will be a little more than one year, make any appreciable contribution towards repairing the strained relationship between USA and Pakistan?

Presently, Haqqani is stated to face three probes. One in the Supreme Court. Another by a Committee, which the Prime Minister says he will be appointing soon. And third, possibly, by the Parliamentary Committee on Security headed by Raza Rabbani.

The Supreme Court case is pregnant with serious political implications. The PML-N in this case is bent upon dislodging the PPP government by targeting President Zardari by linking the Ambassador’s mind-boggling misconduct to the presidency.

One has to remember that the core issues primarily relate to: (a) the civil-military relations in Pakistan; and (b) the US-Pakistan relations with respect to Washington-Islamabad and Washington-Rawalpindi connections.

The discernible impact of the memo episode has resulted already in: (a) the weakening of Zardari’s position – he being already a target of Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif’s recent political thrusts (Sherry’s appointment is also suggestive of his willingness to yield to political advice from outside the presidency); (b) a further hardening of the Pakistan’s military attitude towards the government in Islamabad; and (c) adversely affecting the PPP’s political standing in the eyes of the people of Pakistan based on the generalised feeling that the President was in cahoots with the Ambassador to bring about a furtherance in the process of Pakistan’s subservience to USA.

When viewed in the light of Army Chief’s disinclination to take over power in Pakistan with the NRO review case reopening, the possibility of moves aimed at Zardari’s past misconduct and with Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif launching a public campaign against his misdeeds and the shenanigans of the PPP government, the chances are that the country will be moving rapidly towards new elections.

The Supreme Court findings in the NRO case and the way facts and arguments mould the minds and moods of the judges, will contribute considerably towards raising the public’s feeling and demand for a change in the political scene.

The two core issues, namely the question of civilian supremacy and the US connection to it as well as the tortuous nature of US-Pakistan relationship, will remain largely unresolved for quite sometime to come.

There is every possibility of a better and stronger government emerging from the elections in Pakistan. Such a government will be in a position to forge a more realistic and balanced relationship with the USA. The other question of the top brass abdicating its entrenched position altogether (with so many economic and social, widespread, interests and stakes) will take many years to resolve.

There are lessons to be learnt in Pakistan from Turkey’s remarkable experience spread over more than a decade, as to how the present political government led by an upright and farseeing leadership has managed to bring about a wholesome change in the body politic and the country’s standing in the comity of nations.