HAQQANI-IJAZ-MULLEN MEMO SCANDAL
December 02, 2011
The first part of the play – Memogate – ended with Hussain Haqqani’s resignation, on November 22, 2011, as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the USA. Now, the viewers are keenly waiting for the play’s remaining acts to see what the future holds for Haqqani, civil-military relations and Haqqani’s patron. The scheming minds crafted a memo on May 10, this year, with the stated objectives to change the national security parameters in Pakistan and enable the civilian rulers to exercise absolute control over armed forces. They believed, it was a golden opportunity, after Osama operation to have civilian control over intelligence agencies, as did PPP’s founder chairman ZAB over the armed forces following 1971 events. With the US help, they wanted to form a reliable security team for taking action against Al-Qaeda and Haqqani network.
The new security team was to allow US incursions into Pakistan and formulate an acceptable framework for the country’s N-programme, bring about fundamental change in ISI’s policy to sever its ties with Haqqani network as well as punish and hand-over to India the Mumbai attack culprits. The memo first came to light through an article in London’s Financial Times (October 10, 2011) by Mansoor Ijaz – a Pakistani-American businessman having home in Monaco and connections with CIA and Pentagon. Ijaz owns ‘Crescent Investment Management LLC’ in partnership with Lt. General (R) James Alan Abrahamson (former director of President Reagan’s Strategic Defence Initiative), Prince Alfred of Liechtenstein and CIA’s former Director James Woolsey.
Ijaz claimed that shortly after the US Navy seals killed OBL on May 2, Zardari administration felt threatened and to fend off a possible coup it sought out Ijaz to convey its insecurity to Chairman US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen. With Ambassador Haqqani’s help, Ijaz claims to have drafted and despatched the secret “memo” portraying Pakistan military as being part of the problem rather than the solution to America’s dilemma in Afghanistan. It exhorted Obama administration to start wielding the stick instead of offering carrots to this institution.
After Ijaz’s disclosure, an agitated opposition as well as the civil society and the national media took a serious note of the nefarious attempt to undermine the armed forces, impelling Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, to announce in the National Assembly, on November 18, that investigations into the memo would be taken to their logical conclusion. Gilani reiterated in the lower House, on November 24, that he would ‘soon’ constitute a committee to investigate who was involved in sending the memo to the US military chief. But, critics consider Gilani’s failure to give a timeframe or concrete details even two days after first announcing to probe the matter, to be in marked contrast to the urgency with which the opposition is pushing the issue. Speaking in the National Assembly on November 23, Leader of the Opposition, Ch. Nisar said, the appointment of a new ambassador – Sherry Rahman – within hours of Haqqani’s removal was an indication that the government considered him guilty.
The charge-sheet against Haqqani is long. During interrogation session at the Prime Minister House, on November 22, attended by President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani, Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani and ISI boss Lt. General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, 32 questions were reportedly put to Haqqani. But, Haqqani denied either having written the memo or authorising anybody to do so. Before the memo was delivered to Admiral Mullen, Ambassador Haqqani paid a private visit to London where he met top British officials, including Chief of the General Staff Sir David Richards and parliamentary secretary for defence Tobias Ellwood. During his London stay, telephone calls were made between Haqqani’s room in Park Lane Intercontinental London and Monaco, where Ijaz has a home.After publication of Ijaz’s article, DG ISI Lt. General Pasha dashed to London, grilled Ijaz, on October 22, for four hour over his claims. Ijaz handed a fairly large quantity of records, both originals and copies, to the spy master to prove his contention.
Meanwhile, former Army Chief, General (R) Aslam Beg has disclosed that a conspiracy on the pattern of the memogate scandal was hatched by both Hussain Haqqani and Mansoor Ijaz in 1996 as well. The drop scene of the 1996 botched attempt resulted in Benazir’s ouster from the government. Prime Minister Gilani has stated that if Haqqani’s involvement in the memogate is proved, then as the country’s chief executive he (Gilani) would be responsible for it. When asked in case Haqqani is framed, would he tender resignation, says a section of the Press? Gilani replied, we would look into that. But, he stated categorically that the scandal would not affect President Zardari. It may be recalled that Zardari-led PPP coalition had earlier made an abortive attempt to place ISI under the Interior Division.
The memo’s messenger – Ijaz was supposed to keep it a secret, but he was the first to reveal it on flimsy grounds. Ijaz claims to have released it because of the anger that he felt at Admiral Mullen’s mistreatment by the Pakistani press when Mullen spoke about Pakistan’s complicity in certain attacks on the US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan. Interestingly, Ijaz did not know Mullen personally and he had to deliver the memo to him through US General James Logan Jones, former US National Security Advisor and a retired Marine Corps General. Perhaps, Ijaz has been used as an instrument in this sordid game by a crafty mind. However, the face of the mastermind, his accomplices and their nationalities will come to light after investigations. Even involvement of some Americans in it cannot be ruled out. But, the PPP leadership is not in a hurry to hold the investigation. They have decided to wait for the report of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security before delegating an investigative probe into the matter to any particular agency/department. However, they are considering two options – handing over the issue to the Parliamentary Committee or getting a top level inquiry conducted by the Foreign Office. The Parliamentary Committee on National Security is likely to hold its meeting, on this issue, after Ashura in Muharram.
Meanwhile, President Zardari has reportedly thrown his full weight behind the sacked ambassador while describing the memogate affair as a “conspiracy against his government, hatched outside Pakistan to create a rift between civil and military leadership.” A writer-lobbyist forever looking for opportunities to play the role of a messenger or mediator to further US interests, Ijaz is reputed to be adept at advancing his personal agenda with different governments. Once, he lobbied with Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, urging him to split Jammu and Kashmir into three parts as a possible solution to the intractable dispute, ‘The Telegraph’ of Kolkata claimed on November 22. In a despatch from Washington, its correspondent K. P. Nayar said, the jolt to Ambassador Haqqani from the memogate scandal triggered by Ijaz threatened to disrupt a rare cordiality the Pakistan envoy had developed with India’s Ambassador in Washington Nirupama Rao. “Haqqani appears to have been naive in allowing himself to be used by Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz in advancing his personal agenda of worming into the Obama administration’s confidence by offering himself as an emissary of the civilian government in Islamabad during the critical period after the killing of Osama bin Laden.” Ostensibly, the scheming minds adopted the Ijaz route for the memo’s delivery so that if the exercise failed or it was unearthed, its architect could deny his involvement in it. The Telegraph claimed that a decade ago Ijaz approached the Vajpayee government “with pretensions that he had Washington’s official backing and proposed trifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir as one of the solutions for the dispute over the state’s accession...” Later, Ijaz “hogged a lot of international publicity by insinuating that he had a role in the Vajpayee government’s ceasefire in Kashmir. Ijaz also claimed to have brokered talks, in 1992, between Sudan and the Clinton administration on OBL’s possible extradition to the US, and said that he was an advisor to Nelson Mandela’s “unity government” in South Africa, The Telegraph added. However, according to Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer who chaired President Obama’s Afghanistan-Pakistan Strategy, Ijaz has a long track record of fabricating false information and self-promotion.
It is in everybody’s knowledge that after OBL’s killing, the bonhomie between Pentagon and their counterparts in Pakistan had evaporated. Hitherto the Americans had been holding exclusive meetings with Pakistan’s top brass on all vital issues. But, it now appears that henceforth the US State Department has decided to hold such meetings preferably with their Pakistani counterparts only. For instance, on her last visit to Pakistan, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made it a point to conduct all her discussions with her civilian counterpart, and not exclusively with the top brass, as was the norm in the past. Military representative were asked to join the meetings, but these were led by Secretary Clinton on the US side and foreign minister Hina Khar on the Pakistan side.
Before the final meeting, the generals asked Secretary Clinton to stop by at GHQ or Army House on her way to the airport, ostensibly to put finishing touches to the final points agreed to by the two governments. However, Clinton said, she would not do that to avoid the impression that the agreement was finally reached with the generals in the absence of civil government’s prying eyes. Clinton said, she would finalise everything in the last meeting with the foreign minister and her team, and the generals were welcome to take part. But, what she would not do was to meet separately with the generals. Secretary Clinton also discussed attempts to fan anti-Americanism in Pakistan.
When some civilians told her that there was a lot of prejudice against Pakistan in the US media too. Yes, but you have to wind-up the department in your intelligence agency which puts out anti-American propaganda day after day, she added. Haqqani often talked boisterously about his close links with the US administration. In June this year, Haqqani told guests at a dinner that he had hosted to a couple of prominent former federal ministers, a few Americans and a leading functionary of the US Homeland Security Department, that whenever he went to have a meeting with his US counterparts he decided unilaterally what he had to say and not what his government wanted him to, reveals Mohammad Mallik in an op-ed piece in ‘The News,‘ (November 23).
Continuing Mallik says, the dinner conversation flowed the way of drinks. Tongues loosened up. And Haqqani told his rather startled Pakistani friends that the Americans had identified 362 military targets in Pakistan, including 28 in an around Islamabad alone, and asked Aitzaz Ahsan to share his address so in case he was near one of the chosen targets he could be told to move away to safety. These targets included even residences of irritating military decision makers and not just security affairs related installations. One hopes that Haqqani had conveyed this information to the authorities in Pakistan. If that was not the case, then Foreign Office should ask the gentleman often branded as “America’s Ambassador in Washington” why he failed to pass on such a piece of sensitive information to the concerned quarters in Pakistan. One wonders how a bigmouth was allowed to represent Pakistan for over three years in America. Perhaps, it was due to services to the PPP’s helmsman in difficult times that nobody could dare to take action against Haqqani for his odd behaviour as an ambassador!