Pakistanis may now have managed to create their own “Watergate.” A widely publicized but supposedly secret memo appears to show the country’s civilian leaders all but begging Washington to protect them from a punitive military coup. The scandal is now being called “Memogate” in the press.
It revolves around Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, a high-flying Pakistani businessman named Mansoor Ijaz, and Pakistan’s powerful military. The scandal started when Ijaz claimed that a senior Pakistani diplomat had asked him to convey a message to Washington seeking help to ward-off an impending coup. In return, according to Ijaz, the civil government would help in the war against Al-Qaeda along the Pakistani border and neutralize or eliminate elements of the Pakistani intelligence services with unsavory ties to Al-Qaeda.
The memo was first published in the well-established Pakistani newspaper The News on November 18th. But its authenticity was almost immediately challenged by Dawn, the rival English language daily. One newly arisen theory is that the real perpetrator of the memo scandal is the military, seeking to undermine the credibility of Zadari, whom it believes is too pro-American.
Update: Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s recent envoy to Washington, who resigned that position over his alleged role in “Memogate”, was recently barred from leaving his country by Pakistan’s Supreme Court. Haqqani was quoted as saying, “I resigned to pave the way for a transparent investigation and intend to stay in my country for as long as necessary.”
In addition, the Pakistani Supreme Court has ordered President Asif Ali Zardari, army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, Haqqani and several others to submit reports within 15 days. The Court also appointed Tariq Khosa, a former senior government investigator, to head a commission to probe the scandal.
To complicate matters further, the Pakistani military is charging U.S.-led NATO forces with knowingly aiming deadly fire at its forces on its border with Afghanistan. The U.S. has of course denied the charges. But the relationship between Pakistan and the U.S. is at its lowest ebb in recent memory. In response, the Pakistani press looks to add to the sense of crisis with increasingly nationalistic coverage.
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