MemoGate Or ZardariGate?
By Brig Asif Haroon Raja
The nation had yet not got out of the shock of premeditated target killings of hundreds of innocent residents of Karachi at the hands of militant wings of three political parties duly patronized by political leaders with vested interests, when Dr Zulfiqar Mirza dropped the bomb by revealing that MQM Supremo Altaf Hussain had allegedly made an offer to Tony Blair in 2001 that the MQM would render assistance in axing the ISI and breaking the country. A still bigger bomb exploded in the form of Mullen memo scandal which overshadowed all other issues. Mansoor Ijaz, a Pakistani-American national and a successful businessman with a dubious past came into prominence after he wrote an ill famed article in Financial Times on 10 October 2011. Besides his diatribe against the Army and particularly ISI which he strongly recommended to be declared a rogue outfit, he mentioned that after the 2 May 2011 incident, he had been contacted by a senior Pakistani diplomat on 9 May on behalf of Pakistan government to convey a six point memo to Admiral Mike Mullen. The commitments given in the memo were that in case the US prevents Gen Kayani from sacking PPP government, the government in return would help in proving that ISI was complicit in harboring OBL, and Americans would sit in judgement in inquiry commission; a new security team of Washington’s choice would be put in place; American troops would be given carte blanche to conduct operations on Pakistani soil to get hold of wanted men; nuclear assets would be put under a verification regime and disciplined; ISI-Haqqani network will be severed and the ISI cut down to size; Pakistani officers involved in Mumbai carnage would be handed over to India.
It also transpired that HH (Husain Haqqani) and Ijaz flew together to London on 9 May and met British chief of staff David Richards and Secretary Ministry of Defence, after showing them the memo and getting their blessing, the two flew back to Washington the same day. Here its mentioned that this meeting as reported was arranged by Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan's High Commisoner to the UK. He was also reported by Geo TV carrying the record of Swiss Courts pertaining to Zardari so that the same do not fall in the hands of Pakistani Investigaros.
On 10th May, Ijaz forwarded the secret memo to Mullen through his friend retired Gen James Jones. Mullen denied receiving the memo but on 16 November he retracted his earlier denial and stated that he had received the memo in May but paid no attention to it since it was unsigned. He added that he didn’t know Ijaz. Later on, James Jones also confirmed that he was the conduit to deliver the memo to Mullen, and confirmed that he knew Ijaz since 2005. It transpired in mid-November that the senior diplomat was none other than much-talked about Husain Haqqani (HH), our Ambassador in Washington since April 2008. On 03 December, Ijaz made a slight change in his story asserting that he was sure it was President Zardari who had authorized the memo and that both Zardari and HH were in the know of 2 May attack.
This memo story was vehemently denied by Presidency, Mullen as well as HH, but Ijaz maintained his stance and stated that he was ready to present himself before inquiry commission or apex court in Pakistan with forensic proofs. Reportedly, DGISI held a meeting with Ijaz in London on 22 October and he gave him the proofs he held in his Blackberry mobile set and computer. It was only when Gen Kayani got concerned about the treasonous memo with grave ramifications and he asked President Zardari on 15 November to summon HH and extract the truth that the President got serious.
In line with track record of PPP leaders of denial, HH denied having conceived, drafted and delivered the memo to Ijaz for onward delivery to Mullen. He denies having been asked by Zardari and argues as to why he should have sought controversial Ijaz’s assistance to become the delivery man when he himself was well connected with US military and civilian officials. He may not have written down the memo but he could have dictated the contents to Ijaz. HH cannot deny that he and Ijaz were pals for the last ten years and both harbored anti-Army and anti-ISI feelings. HH has not denied having asked Ijaz to draft and deliver the memo. It is said that HH chose Ijaz owing to his controversial reputation so that if memo issue backfired, his charges could be refuted.
Intriguingly, the contents of memo are exactly what the US aspires for and are precisely what Benazir had promised to fulfill in return for her safe re-entry into Pakistan and taking over power for the third time. Zardari also committed to USA that he would make the Army and ISI totally subservient to his wishes, will settle Kashmir issue on the lines as agreed to by Musharraf, accept Indian hegemony and allow land route to India for its trade with Afghanistan and Central Asia, allow the US-NATO troops to operate in FATA, fight the militants with full force, open up nuclear program for the US and IAEA inspection and agree for its joint control by the US and Pak Army security apparatus. Contents of the memo matched the language of what HH had written in his book ‘Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military’. The entire focus of the book was against the Establishment and ISI. Memo contents are also similar to the clauses in Kerry Lugar Bill, in which all the anti-Army and anti-ISI clauses were added by Haqqani. Even the offer made by MQM chief Altaf Hussein to Tony Blair in 2001 as alleged by Zulfiqar Mirza was on similar lines. Wikileaks revealed that the entire lot of our politicians held secret meetings with former US Ambassador Anne to seek US favors. Hence, there was nothing startling about the memo.
Although HH has been sacked and Sherry Rahman appointed in his place, however, still there are some intriguing questions which warrant answers. The US has spent colossal amount on secret war in Pakistan to accomplish its objectives. Whatever the US had wished for has been penned down in the memo. How come both Mullen and Leon Panetta showed complete disinterest in the explosive memo and left it in pending tray? With highest in Pakistan making such lucrative offers, which the US craved for, it is mind boggling as to why the US ignored the memo. What was Ijaz doing between May and first week of October? Was it HH who conceived the memo and forwarded it to Mullen through Ijaz, or he was authorized either by the President or PM or both; or it was Ijaz’s doing? If it was lone venture of Ijaz, why did he blow his own cover? Is it that he got frustrated by lack of response from CJSC that he blew the whistle to gain importance?
If HH is speaking the truth and that he has been trapped by Ijaz at the behest of conspirators as alleged by him, why did he readily step down from his post? If Ijaz is a liar, why did he meet DGISI and offered to present himself before judicial commission or any investigative body along with forensic evidence to prove whatever he had alleged was true? If the top PPP leadership is clean and has no connection with the memo, why has it reacted so viciously over the decision of Supreme Court to appoint a commission to investigate the memo? Lies uttered by Babar Awan during his press conference betrayed his and PPP leadership’s acute anxiety. Why the gnawing fear? People are connecting Memogate with 2 May incident, 22 May attack and NATO attack on 26 November, which further thickens the plot. Are these links of the same chain? Is it that the rulers want the Memogate to remain shrouded in mystery since they do not want to get exposed? Parliamentary Committee formed by the PM is a mere ritual to gain time and then forget about it. Highly controversial Asma Jahangir notorious for her western and Indian leanings and preconceived notions against the Army as well as superior judiciary has jumped into the fray to defend HH.
The big question is, why did Zardari panic after 2 May, when the wrath had fallen on the Army, ISI and air force and their high image crashed? Why the government remained tight lipped for over a week and why was it so reluctant to form a commission to investigate 2 May episode? It can be conjectured that the President had hoped that the Army would cave in and seek government’s help to bail it out as had happened during Kargil episode. That way, he would be in a position to dictate terms and make Gen Kayani agree to the US demands. He didn’t expect that the Army and ISI would react so strongly and decide to resist the US aggression. Strong reaction by the Army panicked him and he feared that the Army holding the government’s policy of appeasement, corruption and incompetence responsible for the incident would impel Kayani to launch a coup and takeover. Feeling guilty, he may have got jittery that his connection in 2 May attack may not be found out.
Seeing it from another angle, known for his shrewdness and secrecy, why Zardari threw caution to the wind and sought Mullen’s support through HH and Ijaz? Why couldn’t he take a safe route by talking to President Obama or Hillary Clinton on hotline, or asked Munter to convey his message? I have a gut feeling that HH might have put fear of military takeover into Zardari’s heart and convinced him that he at his behest would get the US assistance from CJSC since Obama administration was not likely to cede to their request. He chose the military under the assumption that since the Pentagon and CIA hated Gen Kayani and Gen Pasha intensely and were averse to Pak nuclear program, the offer made would be warmly welcomed. Reason to rely on HH was his strong aversion towards military establishment and ISI, and also his links with the US military senior officials.
He therefore directed anti-Army HH in Washington to seek the US help. However, by the time the memo was drafted and sent to Mullen on 10 May, joint session of the Parliament had been called by the PM on 14 May and DGISI was asked to narrate his side of the story. When the Parliament absolved him, and a joint resolution was passed, the US lost interest in the memo and CIA in frustration planned another sting operation on Mehran Naval Base on 22 May, which again was indirectly directed against the ISI as well as Navy to discredit the two institutions in the eyes of the public.
Possibilities: One; the President authored the memo with the help of his confidents and authorized HH to deliver it to Mullen. Two; President shared his anxiety with HH and latter convinced him to seek the US assistance and volunteered to do the needful at his end. Three; it was entirely the doing of HH aspiring to become the next prime minister with the blessing of USA. Four; It was the US-Mansur Ijaz joint venture to create rift between the Army and Presidency; then instigate Gen Kayani to topple the government and takeover. Or else, instigate Zardari to sack Kayani and Pasha and then implement the points mentioned in the memo.
HH’s resignation has certainly not ended the memo case. His patrons and fans say that he has been penalized and as such the matter should end. Several articles written by hypocrites are appearing in newspapers, eulogizing his great services and presenting him as a scapegoat. In my view it is just the beginning of the end. Zardari, some unknown confidants of Zardari, HH, Cameron Munter, Ijaz, James Jones, Panetta, Mullen, David Richards and British Secretary Ministry of Defence are involved in memo controversy. If Ijaz has a dubious character, so has HH. There are many questions that need to be answered. The whole game plan and the motives of all the actors involved need to be found out and the culprits given exemplary punishment. Supreme Court took the right decision to nominate ex DG FIA Tariq Khosa, well reputed for his honesty and uprightness to investigate and put up his findings within 15 days. However, due to a storm raised by PP leaders, Khosa has declined to head the commission.
It is an act of treason which falls under Article 61 of the Constitution; hence it cannot be taken lightly. Raymond Davis involved in anti-state activities was let off by the President disregarding public sentiments. This time, our own topmost leaders supposed to protect Pakistan are purportedly culpable. The case of high treason must be taken to its logical end at all cost. Possible connection of memo affair with recent NATO attack should also be investigated by the judicial commission to clear the mystery which has greatly perturbed the nation. I pray that the probe proves Ijaz guilty; but God forbid if his contention comes true, it would be the most deplorable and detestable event of our history since no one in power had ever gone to such an extent of compromising the very existence of the country.