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Notes on a scandal

December 21, 2011

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“Who in the world is Mansoor Ijaz?” That was the headline to Newsweek’s cover story, yet it did little in getting answers.

Apart from being Pakistan’s first –gate scandal, which is an accomplishment on its own, in many ways, Memogate is the perfect scandal, in other words, what we have here is a screen play just wanting to happen.

It’s got all the ingredients apart from sex, which ironically just might be the reason it’s such an intriguing scandal.

There’s a mysterious interlocutor, our very own Talented Mr. Ripley in Mansoor Ijaz: A jet-setting, self-proclaimed “ultra-wealthy” Pakistani-American, who lives in the millionaire playground and well-known tax haven of Monaco (Fun Fact: All citizens of Monaco get free cable TV provided by the state). Ijaz is a man who hobnobs with the Clintons, who music producer Herbie Hancock calls “brother” and who possesses a rolodex that would rival most DC lobbyists on K Street. Yet for some reason he cannot digest the fact that he’s an American citizen, something he never fails to mention in interviews with Pakistani media. Also did I mention that he’s “ultra-wealthy”?

Then there’s the seeming scapegoat in now former Ambassador Husain Haqqani, the faithful right-hand man and presumptive author of those well-written New York Times and Washington Post op-eds by President Asif Ali Zardari.

Haqqani seems to have taken the fall for the fiasco, yet he continues to claim his innocence in the matter at the same time playing victim to a conspiracy perpetrated by Ijaz, who has turned from old friend to foe.

Surrounding these two is an American General in Mike Mullen — who must be wondering why they came to him in the first place considering his imminent retirement — the Pakistani Military brass and, of course, our benevolent despot in President Asif  Ali Zardari, of course I use ‘despot’ in its most positive of connotations.

Zardari just returned home to Karachi after two weeks of medical treatment for reported health scares that ranged from a sudden but mild heart attack to a small stroke, which sent the rumor mills in Pakistan ablaze. But thanks to the miracle doctors in Dubai, (or Hogwarts?) our esteemed leader is alive and well.

Above all is the pesky little memo itself. A document, whose authenticity and whose authorship fluctuates from certain to uncertain depending on the day of the week.The memo is a cry for pre-empting a feared military coup against Zardari, in exchange for which it promises a host of enticing, albeit incredible, concessions and basically hands the country to the US on a silver platter, paid for by our platinum IMF card.

Some of these concessions include:

• Installation of a new national security team in Islamabad filled with pro-American officials.

• Transferring to US custody the leaderships of al Qaeda, the Taliban and the Haqqani insurgent network.

• Giving American forces “carte blanche” to conduct operations on Pakistani territory.

• Bringing greater transparency to Pakistan’s swelling nuclear arsenal.

• Abandoning support of militant groups in Afghanistan.

Lo and behold! The memo has made probable the very possibility it was supposed to preempt. I can hear Camus laughing in his grave at the absurdity of our political landscape.

In the afterglow of this scandal are political opportunists, Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif. As Khan channels his inner Barack Obama with words like “hope” and “change,” and let’s not forget “tsunami” while discretely courting the religious right, Sharif waxes lyrical about his distaste for military interference (you don’t say?!) yet at the same time working every angle to will just such an eventuality.

So the stage is set. The battle lines are drawn. Enter the Supreme Court.

You can just imagine a young Tom Cruise ala “A Few Good Men,” giving a defiant but uncomfortable Zardari the third degree.

TC: I’ll ask for the forth time. You ordered …

AZ: You want answers?

TC:  I think I’m entitled to them.

AZ: You want answers?!

TC: I want the truth!

AZ: You can’t handle the truth!

TC: Did you order the memo?

AZ: I did the job I was elected to do.

TC: Did you order the memo?

AZ: Oh look at the kitty …

But let’s get to brass tacks. In the end it really does come down to the initial question. Who in the world is Mansoor Ijaz? And why in the world is he playing footsie with Pakistani politics, especially when he says he has no skin in the game.

How can he claim apathy while having admitted to being involved in some of its most pivotal moments in recent years?

The math simply doesn’t add up.