Memogate inquiry

Nov 24 2011

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HUSAIN Haqqani is out, clearing the way for an inquiry into memogate that could set the record straight and establish the truth behind one of the more bizarre episodes in Pakistan’s political-diplomatic history. While an inquiry has been promised and Mr Haqqani has vowed to clear his name, the details of how and by whom the inquiry will be conducted are vague. This is unfortunate. With so much speculation surrounding memogate and the state of civil-military relations, this is yet another opportunity for the civilian leadership to address matters that go to the heart of how the chain of command works in practice and which spheres of policy the civilians ought to have greater input in.

At the very minimum, the public deserves to know the truth about what transpired in the days after May 2 that led to a memo being delivered to Adm Mike Mullen from Mansoor Ijaz. Mr Ijaz has thus far come off as a particularly controversial character. After the memo he delivered did not seem to have the effect he desired, he seemed to take a U-turn and use his public comments about the memo to further undermine civil-military relations and perhaps even destablise the transition to democracy itself. At the very least, then, Mr Ijaz has serious questions to answer about his credibility and his true motives.

Mr Haqqani himself is no stranger to controversy, but in the present circumstances, there is prima facie case to be made that perhaps he has been a fall guy of sorts for reasons murky and probably never to be revealed to the public.

The one good thing to have come out of the affair so far is that the government has acted quickly to nominate Mr Haqqani’s replacement and in Sherry Rehman has found a person regarded as competent for the post. Still, these are very fraught times in Pakistan-US relations and it remains to be seen to what extent a single person can help nudge relations in the right direction. Moreover, as a non-career diplomat entering the unfriendly, if not hostile, waters of Washington D.C. will Ms Rehman be able to influence labyrinthine foreign policy and national security machineries there? There are lessons to be learned from the fate of two of her counterparts. Husain Haqqani was regarded as very close to the Americans, but when push came to shove, the Americans arguably helped in his removal. Earlier, Shah Mehmood Qureshi appeared to believe his ‘friendship’ with Hillary Clinton would help solve the Raymond Davis affair to Pakistan’s advantage. It’s a lesson worth remembering: there are no friends, only interests.