Husain Haqqani: Pawn in a larger game?
There are numerous issues besides ‘Memogate’ that directly affect the people, like the shortage of gas, electricity, clean drinking water, housing, healthcare, employment and so on. But the issue gains significance because so far, no democratically elected civilian government in Pakistan has ever been allowed to complete its tenure and hand over power to the next one through democratic elections (as I outlined in this paper). There were hopes that this government would be the first to do so – a critical step towards the continuation of a democratic political that is necessary to move the country away from the military-dominated politics of the past – something, as it is now all too apparent, is not a thing of the past after all. In this context, it’s important to understand the current situation and its dangers. Myra MacDonald sums it up in an analysis for Reuters. Some insights were posted to this blog earlier (here and here). Additional facts are laid out in a document received today (reproduced below) that outlines some facts about Husain Haqqani and ‘memogate’. Also read this important article, ‘Treason? Under what Constitution? in the New Pakistan blog, which dissects the ‘memo’ contents and notes that each item in the document falls under the constitutional purview of the federal government…
Issue at hand: Former Ambassador of Pakistan to the US, Husain Haqqani, is currently a virtual prisoner as his life is under danger both from the extremists and from the security agencies. He is residing for his own safety at the Prime Minister’s residence. The Supreme Court of Pakistan imposed a travel ban on him on December 1, 2011 restricting him from leave the country. His wife, Member of Pakistan’s Parliament, Farahnaz Ispahani’s life is also in danger, which is why she is currently in the US where she had come for medical checkups.
This situation arose after the false allegations by an American businessman of Pakistani origin, Mansur Ijaz, who claimed that the Ambassador and President Zardari had sought American help to prevent a military coup in Pakistan. Ambassador Haqqani has flatly denied these allegations. Further, Ambassador Haqqani knew Admiral Mullen very well and could have contacted him directly anytime; it defies understanding why he would need Ijaz to convey a message to Admiral Mullen.
A history of false claims: Mansur Ijaz is well-known over the years for self-promotion and false claims. During the mid-1990s he claimed that he had close ties to the Sudanese government and would be able to help the Clinton administration get Osama Bin Laden. However, both Clinton NSA Sandy Berger and the 9/11 Commission that interviewed Ijaz found no credible evidence in what he said. In 1999 Ijaz claimed to be the American envoy to India and Pakistan to help resolve the Kashmir dispute but in the end neither side found him credible or someone who could deliver. In 2004 Ijaz claimed that chemical warheads were being smuggled into Iraq for an attack on American troops which he later denied.
The ‘memo’: Former US national security advisor General Jim Jones conveyed Ijaz’s memo to then Chairman US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen. Gen Jones in an affidavit has sworn that he believes Ambassador Haqqani had nothing to do with the memo. According to General Jones the language of the memo was akin to what Ijaz wrote.
Ijaz claims that soon after he wrote an OpEd about the ‘memo issue’ on October 10, 2011, Pakistan’s ISI chief, Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha flew to London, met him and examined the evidence and found it credible. However, Admiral Mullen has stated that when he received the memo from Gen Jones, he did not find it credible and took no action on it.
Threats: Asma Jahangir, leading human rights advocate and counsel to Ambassador Haqqani, has stated that Ambassador Haqqani is under threat from his own intelligence-security agencies. In this context Admiral Mullen in one of his final testimonies stated that Pakistan’s intelligence service, ISI, and the Pakistani military have often lied to the Americans, and provide support to the extremist groups, including those who kill Americans.
Action required: Ambassador Haqqani needs to have his passport returned to him and have his name taken off the Exit Control List (ECL) so he can travel. The due process of law must be applied.
Background: The government’s opponents – in the media, political parties, military-intelligence establishment – have used this opportunity to attack the government and try to make Ambassador Haqqani a scapegoat. Some worrying facts:
- Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif (who in 1999 had Ambassador Haqqani imprisoned and tortured for writing OpEds against his regime) is the leading petitioner before the Supreme Court.
- • The Supreme Court took up Mr Sharif’s petition instead of sending it to a trial court first.
- The Supreme Court ignored due process of law and immediately placed a travel ban on Ambassador Haqqani without letting him or his counsel appear before court.
- The head of the ISI himself conducted a forensic investigation and the army chief and head of ISI have stated in their affidavits that they believe the ‘memo’ was genuine – which points to an attempt to frame the Ambassador by institutions that have never agreed with his views.
- A political-media trial and witch-hunt has been ongoing since Ijaz’s OpEd first appeared in the Financial Times.
Detailed Background and Information
Background of Memo: The origins of the memo are in dispute. On October 10, 2011 an American businessman of Pakistani descent, Mansur Ijaz, wrote an OpEd in Financial Times alleging that in the aftermath of the Osama Bin Laden raid of May 2, 2011, he was approached by a senior Pakistani diplomat to pass on a memo to enlist the US military’s help to head off a feared military coup, in exchange for overhauling the country’s powerful top security leadership. He said he gave the memo to former NSA Gen (retd) Jim Jones who passed it on to then Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen.
In the ensuing weeks Ijaz claimed that Amb Husain Haqqani was that senior diplomat and that he and Amb Haqqani corresponded by Blackberry messenger messages, phone conversations and emails.
Amb Haqqani flatly denied these allegations. Admiral Mullen stated that he had received a memo but he did not find it ‘credible.’ According to Mullen’s spokesman “I have said this before and am saying again today. Nothing about that letter had the imprimatur on the Pakistani Government. It was not signed. And the contents of it Admiral Mullen did not find credible. So he took no action on it.” (November 22, 2011)
Amb Haqqani returned to Pakistan on November 19 and tendered his resignation in order to ensure a free and fair inquiry into the issue. The civilian government, while supporting Amb Haqqani’s account accepted his resignation. His passport was confiscated upon his return to Pakistan.
Supreme Court action: December 23, former Prime Minister and leader of the main opposition party, PML-N, Nawaz Sharif filed a petition in the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) claiming that under article 184(3) of the Constitution, the SCP could take up any issue of public importance which relates to fundamental rights. SCP accepted the petition along with other petitions.
On December 1, 2011 the Pakistan Supreme Court placed former ambassador Husain Haqqani on the Exit Control List (ECL) barring him from being able to leave the country, without giving the former ambassador or his lawyer to appear before the court. So due process of law was not followed and Mr Haqqani’s fundamental rights were violated.
Gen Jones in his affidavit to the Pakistan Supreme Court stated that while he did pass on the memo he does not believe Amb Haqqani had anything to do with the memo.
On December 30, Pakistan’s Supreme Court set up a 3-member judicial commission to investigate the issue. According to the SCP judgment a petition seeking an investigation into the affair had “succeeded in establishing that the issues involved are justiciable.” The court also upheld the travel ban on Amb Haqqani. Further, the court has ordered the attorney general of Pakistan, Foreign Ministry and the Pakistani High Commissioner in Canada to approach the parent company of Blackberry, Research In Motion (RIM).
The government maintains that since Pakistan is a parliamentary democracy the correct forum for any such inquiry should be the parliament. The Parliamentary Committee on National Security was already looking into the case and that should be the proper venue not the Supreme Court.
Counter arguments by Amb Haqqani’s lawyer, Asma Jahangir: According to Ambassador Haqqani’s lawyer, leading human rights advocate, Asma Jahangir, the verdict was the “darkest day for the judiciary because the apex court has subjected fundamental rights to national security.”
Terming the court’s judgment ‘disappointing’, she said, “today we feel that the military authority is superior to the civilian authority. Today, the struggle for the transition to democracy has been blocked.” And, “I am forced to think if it is the judiciary of the people or the judiciary of the establishment.” Ms Jahangir also expressed her deep regrets and said she was totally unprepared for this reward of sacrifices rendered by lawyers’ fraternity, as the Court ‘dimmed even a fraction of ray of hope’, while providing the petitioner with relief beyond what they had sought.
Ms Jahangir said the decision was against the rule of law and had compromised a citizen’s right to justice. The verdict reflected undue supremacy of national security and integrity over human rights. “When order came on 1st December, Husain Haqqani was not heard. He did not even have a lawyer,” she said. “Saying that there is a memo and linking it with Husain Haqqani are two different things, it’s more of a media trial that got hyped after Supreme Court’s order”.
DG ISI Shuja Pasha and Gen. Kayani: quick to accept Mansoor Ijaz's claims
Amb Haqqani’s lawyer and others have pointed to the role of Pakistan’s security services, especially its intelligence agency. Both the head of Pakistan’s intelligence service, ISI, Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha and Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, submitted petitions before the Supreme Court insisting they believed the memo was genuine and needs to be investigated. Significantly, according to Mansur Ijaz, Lt Gen Pasha travelled to London in October and ascertained that the memo was genuine. Why was Lt Gen Pasha so eager to travel to London and agree with what Ijaz said? Whose permission did he obtain before doing so? Is he the person who should perform a forensic investigation? Mr Ijaz also alleged in an interview in December that soon after the Bin Laden raid Lt Gen Pasha travelled to the Gulf to muster support for a military coup.
Imminent danger to Mr Husain Haqqani: A media trial has been ongoing since Mansoor Ijaz’s OpEd published in FT in October. The involvement of opposition parties and their leaders in this political-media witchhunt.
The judiciary seems to be ruling on the basis of national security ideology instead of constitution and law.
All those individuals who are speaking out in Pakistan for democracy and human rights are being silenced one by one. Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, former Governor Salman Taseer, former Minister Shahbaz Bhatti were assassinated. Former Amb Haqqani and his lawyer have received serious death threats.
On January 1, 2012, Ms Jahangir announced that she was quitting the case as she did not have faith in the commission been set up by the Supreme Court. According to Ms Jahangir, the Supreme Court’s decision on the petition was a victory for the country’s establishment, and it was being used to transform the country into a ‘security state.’
Ms Jahangir further stated that her client, Mr Haqqani, was under threat from the security agencies. She feared that the security forces-intelligence agencies would try to coerce a statement out of Mr Haqqani. That is why he first stayed at the President’s House and is currently residing at the Prime Minister’s residence.