Thursday, June 20, 2024
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Haqqani arrives in Islamabad to explain position

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Islamabad: Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani arrived here on Sunday and was set to meet President Asif Ali Zardari to explain his position on a controversial secret memorandum that was purportedly sent by the civilian government to ex-US military chief Mike Mullen.

Haqqani flew in to Islamabad on a flight via Qatar shortly after 2 am this morning. The envoy left the airport without speaking to the waiting media and reportedly went straight to the presidency.

The Ambassador has been at the centre of what the media is referring to as the “Memogate” controversy since Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz claimed last month that a secret memo delivered to Mullen, the then US military chief, in May had sought American assistance to prevent a possible military takeover.

Ijaz has claimed that he drafted the memo on the instructions of Haqqani. The envoy, who offered to resign to help defuse the controversy, has said that he played no role in drafting or delivering the memo to Mullen.

Before leaving Washington, Haqqani told the Dawn newspaper that he would appear before a Pakistani parliamentary committee which would be headed by a religious scholar who was also a lawmaker.

He said the panel would hold a full inquiry into the issue and try to “sift facts from fiction”.

Haqqani said he would urge the committee to investigate why “the statement of a doubtful individual was blown out of proportion”.

He said the enemies of democracy were behind the scandal and wanted to “use it as an excuse to undo democracy”.

President Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called Haqqani to Islamabad to explain his position on the controversy following a meeting of the top leadership of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party last week. Reports have said the powerful military is pressuring the weak civilian government to remove Haqqani from his post.

Haqqani, a close aide of Zardari, has served as a vital link between the Pakistan government and Obama administration and played a key role in resolving several recent crises in bilateral relations, including the stand-off over CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who was arrested after he shot and killed two men in Lahore earlier this year.

However, Haqqani has always had an uneasy relationship with the military for his pro-democracy stance. Before leaving Washington, Haqqani met US Special Envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan Marc Grossman.

After the 35-minute meeting, the US State Department issued a statement that said Grossman had never seen the memo before it was made public.

During the meeting, Grossman “referenced the statement of Admiral Mike Mullen’s spokesperson that Admiral Mullen did receive a letter from Mansoor Ijaz but that ‘he did not find it at all credible and took no note of it then or later’. Therefore, he addressed it with no one,” the statement said.

The State Department stressed the need to continue the democratic process in Pakistan.

“We clearly support the democratically elected government of Pakistan, as well as its constitutional processes,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told a briefing.

At the Pentagon, spokesman George Little told reporters that Defence Secretary Leon Panetta was aware of the issues related to the memo.

However, he said “no review” had been ordered when asked why the serious allegations in the memo were ignored by Mullen’s office.

Meanwhile, ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha met Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz in London to verify his claims that he helped deliver to US administration a secret memorandum in which Pakistani government purportedly sought American help to stave off a possible military takeover, a media report said here on Sunday.

Due to the “sensitivity of the charges” levelled by Ijaz, including the alleged authorisation of the memo by President Asif Ali Zardari, the highest level of Pakistan’s military leadership decided the initial investigation must be carried out by the ISI chief, ‘The News’ daily quoted its sources as saying.

Asked to confirm whether the official who met him on October 22 was Pasha, Ijaz told the newspaper: “Yes.”

Ijaz earlier said that the full data and evidence of his contacts with the Pakistani official who asked him to draft the memo has been given to Pakistani authorities.

This includes records of phone calls, SMS messages, Blackberry exchanges and emails. The News reported that Ijaz met Pasha on October 22 in Park Lane Intercontinental Hotel in London.

The meeting lasted for over four hours and Ijaz was “exhaustively grilled over his claims”, the report said. The material provided by Ijaz was “subsequently put through a verification process” and once Pasha was convinced about its authenticity, “he briefed the army chief (Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani) who ultimately discussed the matter in his one-on-one meeting with President Zardari on November 15”.

Kayani “impressed upon the President the inevitable necessity” of the presence in the country of Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani to explain his alleged role in the controversy.

After the Zardari-Kayani meeting, the presidency announced that Haqqani had been called to Islamabad to explain his position.

“According to sources, the President had been fairly confident about stubbing out the matter for good in his one-on-one huddle (with Kayani) but the outcome was not entirely to his satisfaction,” the report said.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called Kayani and set up a meeting of the President, Premier and army chief on November 16.

Gilani, known for “not harbouring any exceptional love” for Haqqani, also said in Parliament that “ambassador or no ambassador, he will have to come and explain his position”.

The presidency’s decision to act on the controversy was due to an official communication sent to Zardari over the weekend before his meeting with Kayani. (PTI)

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