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'Haqqani coerced to confess that Zardari behind memo'

January 19, 2012 11:21 IST
Pakistan's former ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani said that the judicial commission investigating the memogate was trying to coerce him to confess that President Asif Ali Zardari had urged him to draft the memo to former chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Admiral Mike Mullen.

This was revealed by Haqqani to Professor Christine Fair of Georgetown University, a South Asia expert, who has extensively researched the Pakistan army, the Inter-Serviced Intelligence and the terrorist organisations based in the country.

Haqqani was asked to step down as Pakistan's envoy to the US over his suspected role in the secret memo, which said that the Pakistan government had sought help from the United States to stave off a military coup in the wake of the Abbottabad raid on May 2, which killed Osama bin Laden. 

Fair, who was discussing the memogate affair at a conference at the Hudson Institute and arguing how the judicial process has been subverted and due process disregarded in the investigation of Haqqani, said she had met Haqqani last week. His interpretation of the investigation was "that they are trying to use these proceedings to put the fear of Allah in him to get him to give up the goods on Zardari to bring this government down," she said. "This is a well-worn playbook that this military had in its disposal," she added.

Fair said that this case "bears some similarity to what we saw with (former Pakistan prime minister) Benazir's (Bhutto) father -- Zulfikar Ali Bhutto -- when they took the head of his security and coerced him into becoming what's called an approver in Pakistani parlanace -- I guess in our parlance it would be basically a witness for the state."

Thus, she said, "While we all care about Husain Haqqani, I want to emphasise that this is not simply about the particular personal safety or lack thereof of Haqqani, but also about Pakistan's democratic institutions."

Fair said that what was currently taking place in Pakistan "in my view is a slow-moving coup."

"So, if we care about Pakistan's democracy as well as Husain Haqqani, the United States government really needs to be much more vocal than it has been," she said. "We have to work with our partners to send a very clear message that we recognise that this is a coup albeit via judicial hue."

Lisa Curtis, who heads the South Asia programme at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington-based think tank, warned that "if the Zardari government is forced out, whether it be through the Supreme Court -- and it looks like the army is working in tandem with the Supreme Court albeit behind the scenes -- this is going to send a negative signal."

Curtis, a former Central Intelligence Agency official, said the signal would be clear that "the Pakistan army still wields inappropriate control within the systems," and that 'civilian democracy has really not taken root in Pakistan". She argued, "Even though the Zardari government may not be perfect, it's an elected government and we need to keep that in mind."

 

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
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