Is the ‘memorandum’ bomb about to explode and shatter the initiators?
By Brig Farooq Hameed Khan(Retd)
The Zardari- Mullen- Obama memo controversy continues to emit dense smoke as the fire below seems to rage with greater fury. Mansoor Ijaz’s most recent revelations of the transcripts of communication exchanges (Black Berry messages/tel calls) indicate that the memo was undoubtedly formulated and edited with help of a senior Pakistani diplomat/ official and approved allegedly by the ‘highest political authority in Pakistan’. Admiral Mike Mullen received the memo on May10 around 1400 hours from a source “whom he (Mullen) trusted and who (the source) also trusted Mansoor Ijaz”.
In his lengthy rejoinders reported in the ‘The News’ on October 31 and November 11, Mansoor Ijaz repeatedly threatened to reveal the ‘highly sensitive content’ of the memo stating, “the facts I have are irrefutable, the evidence is crystal clear.” But what may give sleepless nights to other ‘memo’ actors was Mansoor’s remark that “offers made were very much congruent with American objectives in the region”.
The memo’s hair raising contents already revealed in Mansoor Ijaz’s explosive October 10 article in UK’s Financial Times are enough to make matters difficult for Mr Zardari who ‘needed an American fist on his Army Chief’s desk to end any misguided notions of a coup – and fast’ after the Abbottabad debacle.
The quid pro quo as reported included dismantling the ‘S’( counter terrorism) Wing of ISI and bringing in a new security team (implying removal of COAS/DGISI) that would end ISI’s relations with the Haqqani network and Taliban. The very thought of a President who is also the Supreme Commander of Armed forces, acting against his own national security interests is unbelievable and frightening, too.
The pieces can be put together. While the country including its security establishment struggled to cope with the psychological impact of the May 02 Abbottabad strike, was our top leadership trying to covertly strike a deal with those who had blatantly violated Pakistan’s sovereignty? Was the bogey of a military coup being raised to consolidate and secure their own power agenda?
The American fist came down real hard on Pakistan’s security institutions which clearly went on the defensive. Pakistanis were
shocked by the venomous propaganda unleashed by the American / British media through wave of articles and reports against the Army/ ISI. Themes like the Army/ ISI being incapable of safeguarding the nuclear and strategic assets, the danger of their takeover by Islamists within the Army and possibility of a ‘Colonels’ coup’ suddenly became the talk of the foreign media.
Strangely enough, no one from the American administration has denied the memo’s existence. When asked to comment on this matter during her recent Islamabad visit, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was evasive and termed it as a matter between two Presidents.
Even Mike Mullen’s spokesman commented in a roundabout manner. He stated, “I cannot say definitively that the correspondence did not come from him (Mansoor Ijaz ).” Mansoor claims he had proof that Mike Mullen acknowledged the receipt of the memo from their common friend.
I was present in Imran Khan’s historic Minar –e- Pakistan public meeting, when he bowled that unbeatable in- swinger to President Zardari about the secret SOS to President Obama. Imran emphatically mentioned our Washington Ambassador Hussain Haqqani as that ‘senior Pakistani diplomat’ who was instrumental in coordinating the memo affair.
Haqqani’s immediate denial failed to make an impact since his credibility rating was obviously no way near that of Imran Khan. In reply to Kamran Khan’s blunt question live on GEO TV few days later, whether the ‘ senior diplomat’ was indeed Hussain Haqqani, the wily Mansoor Ijaz declined to comment. Why would Mansoor not give a clean chit to Haqqani?
Will Mansoor Ijaz’s offer of a deal apparently directed towards Mr Zardari and co. to “stop telling lies about me and I might just stop telling the truth about you”, really work? Is the Presidency desperate to prevent further memo leaks? Islamabad would probably go to any extreme even if it meant striking a deal with Mansoor Ijaz or pleading to their American friends to ask this US citizen to exercise restraint. But is it too late for damage control? Denials by the Foreign Office as well as the Presidency that tried to discredit and tarnish Mansoor Ijaz’s credibility may have caused the latter’s stinging response.
Mansoor Ijaz had earlier expressed his willingness to provide on request, all details in closed door briefings to the ‘official bodies/organs of Pakistan government’ conducting an investigation and even the Supreme Court, to present the truth, which in his words, ‘will not be easy for anyone to swallow’. Should Mansoor Ijaz be summoned by the Parliamentary Committee on Defence/national security? Is this not a perfect Suo Moto Case for Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry?
Mansoor Ijaz’s sensational disclosures in Sana Buchan’s November 13 ‘Lekin’ talk show on GEO, that a Pakistani Government representative had verified the available data and forensic evidence on the subject, should ring alarm bills on Islamabad hill. Is the memo already in safe custody of some state organ in Pakistan?
For our security/intelligence setups, this is too grave a matter to be brushed aside. The concerned agencies must be carrying out their independent investigation. Is the security establishment’s intriguing silence over this issue a portent of an approaching storm?
Pakistanis anxiously await the details of other promises made in the memo as well as confirmation of the identity of that ‘senior diplomat’. The repercussion may be unimaginable, should these ‘commitments’ relate negatively to our nuclear program or the armed forces or other vital interests are deemed to be compromised.
The memo issue not only has serious implications for our national security but the moral dimension is even significant. Mr Zardari or the ‘senior diplomat’ would be discharging their national obligation by presenting the truth, before the memo hits the media, a dreadful scenario that may just be round the corner.
With fingers pointing towards our Ambassador in Washington, he has reportedly been summoned to Islamabad to explain his position. Will he be made the scapegoat? Does Mansoor Ijaz still control the timing of the memo’s release? Is the ‘memo’ bomb about to explode?