WASHINGTON: Ambassador Husain Haqqani has been summoned to Islamabad for “routine consultations”, sources at the Pakistan Embassy told Dawn, rejecting suggestions that he has been called to clarify confusions over an alleged letter to senior US officials about differences between civilian and military establishments.
“Yes, he is going to Islamabad but for routine consultations,” said a senior embassy source. “There are strains and stresses in US and Pakistan relations that need immediate attention.”
The sources said the ambassador needed to stay in Washington for the next few days because he had to deal with a move in the US Congress to impose new restrictions on aid to Pakistan.
Congress is expected to take up the appropriations bill later this month which will also involve discussions on US assistance to Pakistan.
“Any serious reduction in the assistance will be seen as another blow to bilateral relations and that’s why the ambassador needs to stay in Washington,” the source said.
“Contrary to some media reports, the ambassador has not been summoned to Pakistan immediately. He will go only after the expected congressional debate on Pakistan comes to a conclusion,” the source added.
But other sources in the US capital insist that there’s nothing routine about Mr Haqqani’s visit to Islamabad.
They link it to the controversy surrounding a letter that President Asif Ali Zardari allegedly sent to senior US officials through a Pakistani-American businessman, seeking their support for removing some senior military officials. In return, he allegedly offered to increase cooperation in the war against terrorists.
While the businessman, Mansoor Ijaz, insists that he not only delivered the letter but also has a copy with him, the government of Pakistan has rejected his claim as “pure fiction”. A spokesman for the former US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen, who, according to Mr Ijaz, received the letter on May 10, also has refused to confirm the businessman’s claim. But his spokesman did not rule out the possibility that Mr Ijaz might have sent the letter through an intermediary. Admiral Mullen’s spokesman said that even if he received that letter, he did not take it seriously.
Despite such denials, the controversy refuses to disappear.
Last week, Mr Ijaz also released a copy of his alleged conversation with a senior Pakistani official who, he claims, had given him the letter.
Sources in Washington say that continued speculations about the alleged letter and its possible repercussions forced authorities in Islamabad to call Ambassador Haqqani to discuss the matter with him.
“To say that he is going to Islamabad for routine consultations is wrong,” said a source. “But it is also wrong to suggest that the ambassador is on his way out. This visit is about consultations but not on any move in the US Congress. It is about the alleged letter.”
The sources pointed out that no major congressional debate on Pakistan is scheduled in the near future.
The sources also claimed that the controversy involving the alleged letter also came up for discussion in a meeting on Tuesday between President Zardari and the army chief, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
But reports from Islamabad say that the two focused on the current security situation, although “professional matters pertaining to Pakistan Army also came under discussion”.