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The memo whodunit

November 24, 2011


ALL conscious citizens will approve of the prime minister’s decision to launch a thorough probe into the affair of the Mansoor Ijaz memorandum and to relieve Husain Haqqani of his post of ambassador. Sharp differences are, however, likely to arise among them on the level and procedure of the inquiry body and its terms of reference.

The government is under pressure from two sides — the military establishment on one side and the PML-N and some other political groups, backed by the media, on the other side. It is unclear whether the military will be satisfied with Haqqani’s ouster alone while the civilian brigade is openly keen to get as many scalps as possible.

Regardless of the number and identity of the heads that may be on the block, the people’s interest in an inquiry will not be served until a serious effort is made to address the issues that give rise to memo-like happenings and the general responses to them.

Let it be understood at the very outset that whoever is found responsible, in any way, for the obnoxious memo must be made to account for it. No elaborate exercise is necessary to demonstrate what is wrong with the document. Not only the guilt of its author in soliciting the US intervention in Pakistan’s affairs but also his stupidity in assuming the addressee’s ability to intervene is evident and established. No words need be wasted on condemning the mischief of the memo’s writer and the courier.

It is also necessary to ensure that whatever the result of the probe it will be shared with the people. This because there is a history of suppression of reports of commissions that the military did not like and denial of any such protection to politicians.

The first question that the inquiry must answer is: who has conspired against whom? Contrary to the impression created by some reckless commentators whose mala fides are oozing from each word in their tirades against their favourite targets, the memo is a conspiracy against the state of Pakistan and not the military alone. While the government and the military both have been maligned the quarry in reality is the democratic polity.

The record of the persons cast in the role of defendants, Ambassador Husain Haqqani and President Asif Ali Zardari, is quite well known. They have little defence against the nation’s psyche, in which, as well put in a Washington Post report, “patriotism is equated with support for the military”.

As political animals they are not entitled to any leniency. So far all the pressure has been on them to prove their innocence. But regardless of the allegations against them any honest judge will first try to study the prosecution’s case. He will not proceed without first ascertaining whether the accuser’s hands are clean. It will be necessary to examine the bona fides of Mansoor Ijaz and also to take a look at the havoc the system of lobbying in the US sometimes causes.Mansoor Ijaz’s culpability is manifest on record. He admits that he wrote the memo and passed it on for delivery to Adm Mullen. The contents of the memo reflect his own views that find a more strident expression in his Financial Times diatribe against the ISI and the military in general.

In this article he says: “The time has come for the State Department to declare the S Wing (of ISI) a sponsor of terrorism under the designation of ‘foreign governmental organisations’… The time has come for America to take the lead in shutting down the political and financial support that sustains an organ of the Pakistan state that undermines global anti-terrorism efforts at every turn.”

We find that on the one hand Mansoor Ijaz is ingratiating himself with the United States by maligning the Pakistan military and on the other hand he wants to see a couple of heads chopped off for doing something similar. Quite an operator indeed.

Mansoor Ijaz says the contents of the memo were dictated to him by Husain Haqqani in the course of an 11-minute phone call during which some discussion also took place. Whether a nearly 1,000-word memo could be composed even by a professional stenographer in 10 or 11 minutes is something worth finding out.

Then Mansur Ejaz does not disclose the reasons for accepting Husain Haqqani’s dictation. There was no master-servant relationship between them. Why did he choose to become a collaborator? What is his status now? Has he been declared an approver? If so, by whom?

Was he carrying out a sting operation? If so, for whom? Sting operations are not kept secret for months. The reason given by him for going public with his tale — that he could not bear discourteous references to Mullen — reveals his dramatically demonstrated loyalties. Has he ever been hurt by and reacted to the venomous attacks to which Pakistan and its people are subjected day in and day out? Thus his averment is at best the testimony of a co-accused, who has confessed to his guilt. Such testimonies need strong corroboration.

Mansoor Ijaz is obviously one of the thousands of naturalised Americans who gain advantage by acting as experts on the countries of their origin and exploit their access to US dignitaries. Unfortunately, the governments of the countries of their origin and the US both often seek their services for back channel diplomacy. The system had some merit in the beginning but now it seems to have become a racket in the hands of soldiers of fortune. One wonders as to how long their home and adopted countries will continue to be duped by them.

However, the fate of Mansoor Ijaz or the Pakistani personages under attack is not the most important part of the matter. Let justice take its course. From the viewpoint of Pakistan’s state and its people the supreme issue is the need to end the imbalance in civil and military relations.

Everybody knows how important the defence forces for Pakistan are. They are entitled to the fullest possible support by the government and the people that they legitimately need for performing their duties. But the proposition that the military is not accountable to the constitutionally established authority while it is free to browbeat and overthrow the latter without notice can no longer be entertained as it has already wrecked the state many times over.

In this situation, political parties, almost all of whom have vowed, at one time or another, not to seek the military’s help to demolish their political rivals, have to stick to their democratic responsibilities. If they are opposed to unconstitutional changes they have to make sure that their attitude on the memo affair, or any other issue, does not produce results contrary to their proclamations.