Mehlaqa Samdani: Memo-madness: Leaders gone wild or business as usual in Pakistan?

Pakistan is currently abuzz with a political scandal that threatens to destabilize the civilian government and cause further tensions between the military and civilian leaderships.  Rather than let the controversy play out in the media, the Pakistani government should launch a full-scale inquiry into the matter.

Dubbed ‘memo-gate’, the scandal surrounds a memo that was allegedly drafted by Pakistan’s civilian leadership and delivered by Pakistani-American businessman, Mansoor Ijaz, to former Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, following Osama Bin Laden’s assassination in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 2.

In the memo, which has now been released by Foreign Policy magazine, the Pakistani civilian leadership, fearful of a military takeover, allegedly requests the assistance of the US government to prevent a coup.

In exchange it offers cooperation on a range of national security issues, including the reshuffling of top national security positions, the extradition of remaining militants in Pakistan (such as Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Mullah Omar and Sirajuddin Haqqani) and the elimination of the ‘S’ wing of the ISI (Pakistan’s intelligence agency), which purportedly deals directly with various militant outfits.

The existence of a memo first came to light when Mansoor Ijaz wrote an op-ed for the Financial Times on October 10 in which he outlined his own role in delivering it to Admiral Mullen through an intermediary. Since the publication of Ijaz’s article, Admiral Mike Mullen has confirmed the existence of the memo but has not shared any details regarding who he believes authored it.

Questions, therefore, remain.  An obvious one is why Mansoor Ijaz, five months after the fact, leaked the memo? In an exclusive interview with Foreign Policy, Ijaz explained:

“I felt very strongly about how Adm. Mullen was mistreated by the Pakistani press after he had testified in Congress and shed light on the harsh truth about Pakistan’s intelligence service brinkmanship,” Ijaz said. “So I felt it was necessary to set the record straight.”

What boggles the mind is why Ijaz would be so sensitive to Admiral Mullen’s (whom he does not know personally) treatment in the Pakistani press and completely overlook the fact that in coming to the admiral’s defense, he exposed the alleged treachery of Pakistan’s civilian government, on whose behalf he was apparently acting when he delivered the memo.

While the title of his op-ed, ‘Time to take on Pakistan’s Jihadist Spies’, ostensibly seems hostile to the military, the publication of his article, has in fact made the civilian government appear perfidious by inviting “direct intervention” of the United States to restore the civil-military imbalance and apprehend militants operating on Pakistani soil.

Indeed, if the civilian leadership is found culpable, according to legal analyst, Babar Sattar, it would be guilty of violating “Articles 2A, 5, 9, 10A, 42, 243, 245 of the Constitution of Pakistan and consequently fall within the scope of Article 6 which holds that, any person who “attempts to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance… the Constitution by any unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason.””

The initiation of an independent investigation is therefore critical.  In the wake of the scandal, while denying involvement, Ambassador Haqqani offered to resign in order to put the issue to rest.  However, even if the PPP government accepts Haqqani’s resignation, this should not distract from a full-scale independent inquiry.  Not only should the allegations be fully investigated, but Ijaz’s role in the episode examined. Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy recently examined Ijaz’s previous dubious stints in the world of international politics commenting that:

This is only the latest time that Ijaz has raised controversy concerning his alleged role as a secret international diplomat. In 1996, he was accused of trying to extort money from the Pakistani government in exchange for delivering votes in the U.S. House of Representatives on a Pakistan-related trade provision.

Ijaz, who runs the firm Crescent Investment Management LLC in New York, has been an interlocutor between U.S. officials and foreign government for years, amid constant accusations of financial conflicts of interest.

…Ijaz has claimed that his work gave the United States a chance to kill the al Qaeda leader but that the Clinton administration dropped the ball. National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, who served under Clinton, has called Ijaz’s allegations “ludicrous and irresponsible.”

Many have also argued that the memo-gate scandal, whether real or concocted, should be used as an opportunity to begin a constructive dialogue on civil-military relations in Pakistan.

A Pakistani editorial pointed out that a similar process should have followed Bin Laden’s death in May, but instead

the commission that was set up by the government went on to probe other things, mainly whether there was any cooperation at any level by government officials with the Americans. While investigating this may have been a reasonable course of action, one can only wonder how other, perhaps more important questions — such as how bin Laden could have been hiding undetected in a place like Abbottabad for so many years — were never asked

The author, whose views are her own, is a Pakistani citizen who lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two children. This post was originally published on her blog Politics and Peacebuilding in Pakistan and has been published by Pakistan Horizon with her permission for which PH is grateful.


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Filed under Al Qaeda, Pakistan, Peace building, United States

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