Husain Haqqani was behind memo
By Shaiq Hussain
A three-member judicial commission has concluded that Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States, was behind a memo indirectly sent to a senior U.S. military official last year seeking Washington’s help in averting a military coup.
The report, submitted to Pakistan’s Supreme Court for review, found that Haqqani was “not loyal” to the Pakistani state while serving as its ambassador and sought to undermine the country’s nuclear assets, armed forces and intelligence agency.
The commission’s report marks the latest turn in the politically charged tailspin of U.S.-Pakistani relations over the past year, and in ongoing strife between Pakistan’s civilian government and its powerful military and intelligence service.
The court suspended a hearing on the case while it studies the report and said it would reconvene in two weeks, when it expects Haqqani to appear before it. He could face treason charges as a result of the findings.
Haqqani, who lives in Boston, has denied involvement in the affair that has come to be known as “Memogate.” The panel’s findings are “political and one-sided,” he said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
“There is no legal case against me, which is why I have not been charged or tried but labeled guilty through a so-called fact-finding commission which made no effort to hear my version,” he said.
Haqqani was forced to resign his post in November amid outrage in Pakistan over the memo, which was written by a Pakistani American businessman, Mansoor Ijaz, and sent in early May 2011 to James L. Jones, President Obama’s former national security adviser, days after al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in Pakistan. At Ijaz’s request, Jones e-mailed it to Adm. Mike Mullen, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time.
Mullen has said that he ignored the unsigned memo, which sought U.S. help in establishing a new security structure in Pakistan.
The existence of the memo was revealed by Ijaz, who wrote about it in the Financial Times. He subsequently said he had written it on instructions from Haqqani.
The Pakistani government and Haqqani denied any role in the memo, but the issue quickly became embroiled in Pakistan’s politics and the tense civilian-military relationship there. The Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, formed the three-member commission to investigate the matter in response to a petition by political opposition leader Nawaz Sharif.
Haqqani returned to Pakistan late last year and lived for two months in the residence of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, saying he feared for his safety. Haqqani was eventually allowed to leave the country and returned to the teaching position at Boston University that he had held before his 2008 appointment as Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington.
Even as the issue appeared to fade from public and media attention, the commission examined documents and continued to call witnesses, including Ijaz, who was permitted to testify via video link from London after he said he feared coming to Pakistan. When the commission called Haqqani to testify, it denied his request to do so remotely.
Haqqani, who remains concerned about his safety should he return to Pakistan, said that the Supreme Court was politically motivated, had no right to try the case and “must not abuse its authority as the court of final appeal to divert attention from the embarrassment of its politicized leadership.”
“My real crime,” he said, “is standing up for U.S.-Pakistan relations for Pakistan’s sake, which is currently an unpopular position in Pakistan. The memo is a figment of the imagination of a reckless self-promoter.”
“Although I had nothing to do with the writing and sending of the disputed memo,” he said, “many people around the world would argue that the memo’s contents reflect a reasonable point of view that is in no way treason and certainly very much in line with global thinking.”
Staff writer Karen DeYoung in Washington contributed to this report.