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November 24, 2011

Memogate Scandal:
Zardari regime again fails to control the powerful army

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

The so-called memogate scandal, that cost the job of Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, Hussain Haqqani, is perhaps a sequel to the July 2008 abortive attempt by the US client government of President Zardari to put the powerful military-run spy agency, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), under civilian control.

On July 27, 2008, Zardari government issued a notification to place the entire financial, administrative and operational control of the ISI with the Interior Ministry. The notification was withdrawn in less than 24 hours amid sharp reaction by the Army.

Apparently, Zardari government tried to put the ISI under civilian control on behest of Washington as after the Mombai attacks of December 2008, Senator Kerry called for putting the ISI under civilian control.

In the latest bid to control the Army and ISI, Pakistan’s Ambassador to US, Hussain Haqqani, wrote a confidential memo to the then US Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen that “a unique window of opportunity exists for the civilians to gain the upper hand over army and intelligence directorates due to their complicity in the (Osama Bin Laden) UBL matter.” The ambassador assigned Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz to deliver the memo to Admiral Mike Mullen through the courtesy of General James Jones.

Confidential memo

In an October 10 op-ed in top UK daily Financial Times Mansoor Ijaz wrote that on May 10, in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s alleged killing in Abbottabad, he was asked to draft a memo that was to be delivered to Admiral Mike Mullen. Soon after the publication of this article, spokesman of the Presidency in Islamabad denied any such initiative followed by a denial on behalf of Mullen.

The matter heated up once again when Mansoor Ijaz released to the press 38 SMS messages exchanged with him on his Blackberry cell phone. But what has made things worse for Mr Zardari and Mr Haqqani is a confirmation by Mike Mullen’s spokesman that he did receive the memo but paid no heed to it.

Mansoor Ijaz claimed the memo was written at the behest of Husain Haqqani and implicitly approved by President Asif Zardari, in which the Pakistani government sought Washington`s help as it feared a military coup, following the alleged killing of Osama bin Laden in a US forces raid in Abbottabad. “Civilians cannot withstand much more of the hard pressure being delivered from the Army to succumb to wholesale changes.”

There was also talk of replacing the current military leadership, of pledges to abandon support to all militant groups and also offers of a `transparent` and secure handling of nuclear assets among others. Washington’s political/military backing would result in a revamp of the civilian government that, …..in a wholesale manner replaces the national security adviser and other national security officials with trusted advisers that include ex-military and civilian leaders favorably viewed by Washington.”

The confidential memo in part said:

  • In the event Washington’s direct intervention behind the scenes can be secured through your personal communication with Kayani (he will likely listen only to you at this moment) to stand down the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment, the new national security team is prepared, with full backing of the civilian apparatus, to do the following:
  • 1. President of Pakistan will order an independent inquiry into the allegations that Pakistan harbored and offered assistance to UBL and other senior Qaeda operatives. The White House can suggest names of independent investigators to populate the panel, along the lines of the bipartisan 9-11 Commission, for example.
  • 2. The inquiry will be accountable and independent, and result in findings of tangible value to the US government and the American people that identify with exacting detail those elements responsible for harboring and aiding UBL inside and close to the inner ring of influence in Pakistan’s Government (civilian, intelligence directorates and military). It is certain that the UBL Commission will result in immediate termination of active service officers in the appropriate government offices and agencies found responsible for complicity in assisting UBL.
  • 3. The new national security team will implement a policy of either handing over those left in the leadership of Al Qaeda or other affiliated terrorist groups who are still on Pakistani soil, including Ayman Al Zawahiri, Mullah Omar and Sirajuddin Haqqani, or giving US military forces a “green light” to conduct the necessary operations to capture or kill them on Pakistani soil.
  • 4. One of the great fears of the military-intelligence establishment is that with your stealth capabilities to enter and exit Pakistani airspace at will, Pakistan’s nuclear assets are now legitimate targets. The new national security team is prepared, with full backing of the Pakistani government – initially civilian but eventually all three power centers – to develop an acceptable framework of discipline for the nuclear program. This effort was begun under the previous military regime, with acceptable results. We are prepared to reactivate those ideas and build on them in a way that brings Pakistan’s nuclear assets under a more verifiable, transparent regime.
  • 5. The new national security team will eliminate Section S of the ISI charged with maintaining relations to the Taliban, Haqqani network, etc. This will dramatically improve relations with Afghanistan.
  • 6. We are prepared to cooperate fully under the new national security team’s guidance with the Indian government on bringing all perpetrators of Pakistani origin to account for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, whether outside government or inside any part of the government, including its intelligence agencies. This includes handing over those against whom sufficient evidence exists of guilt to the Indian security services.

Haqqani recalled from Washington and sacked

The Ambassador was recalled from Washington. He appeared before President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, COAS General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and ISI chief Lt-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha on November 22 to explain his position about the memo. Since neither the fact that the memo was sent nor its contents were any longer in doubt, Haqqani was asked to quit.

Before the memo issue, the Pakistan Army and the ISI have been extremely upset with Haqqani on helping insert anti-Army clauses in the Kerry-Lugar bill and the matter of visa issuance to hundreds of Americans without due prior-scrutiny of the Pakistani security agencies. Despite the army reservations the Zardari regime following US pressure authorized the Haqqani-led Washington embassy to issue visas on its own without referring their cases even to the Foreign Office and the ISI and other security agencies.

Interestingly, in 2009, the Kerry-Lugar Bill demanded an effective “civilian control” of the promotion of senior military leaders, military budgets, the chain of command and strategic guidance and planning.

Sub-clause (15) of Section 302A calls for an assessment of the extent to which the Government of Pakistan exercises effective civilian control of the military, including a description of the extent to which civilian executive leaders and parliament exercise oversight and approval of military budgets, the chain of command, the process of promotion for senior military leaders, civilian involvement in strategic guidance and planning, and military involvement in civil administration.

The more direct language against military intervention in political and judicial processes was apparently been added by the US legislators on the insistence of the present government of President Zardari through his ambassador in Washington, Husain Haqqani, who has been critical of the army and ISI while staying in US since 2002.

Haqqani is a controversial person with lack of his political commitment and affiliation. Soon after he assumed his office, Haqqani was hooted at a physicians’ meeting in Washington where some US physicians of Pakistani origin thought he was “America’s ambassador to Islamabad and not Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington.”

Weeks later, he was cheered at another gathering as Pakistan’s “strongest advocate ever” in the US capital. And this has been the pattern throughout his tenure, forcing the ambassador to once declare that he was “an ambassador to the US government, not to the Pakistani community in America.”

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America.