Memogate meant to show Zardari the door?
Pakistan is a land of conspiracies— imaginary and real. Much of what’s retailed by word of mouth or friendly media persons shows civilian rulers in poor light. The underlying message in the so-called “memogate” is that the men in Khaki could do no wrong, that they are the best defenders of Pakistan’s national interest.
The mystery note was allegedly drafted by Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US who’s believed to have got it delivered to the then Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen on behalf of President Asif Zardari. The courier who got the memo delivered to Mullen: a businessman named Mansoor Ijaz.
In short, the note proposed a clean-up operation in the security apparatus of Pakistan in the aftermath of the US’s Abbottabad raid that took out Osama bin Laden, leaving the Army’s reputation in tatters. Never since the 1971 war that divided Pakistan has the fauj’s stock been so low in popular esteem. The widespread view that its top leadership is Washington’s beachhead in the region is shared by a bulk of middle-rung officers in the armed forces, including the Navy whose Mehran base near Karachi was attacked post-Osama by jehadi groups having sympathizers in its ranks.
The growing chorus over memogate has to be read in this backdrop. The effort is to paint the civilian leadership as a surrogate of the US, which perhaps it is, and the Army as the institution wronged despite its myriad compromises with Washington.
The controversy has compounded further the public outrage over America’s Af-Pak policy, very much part of it are the drone attacks to which Islamabad agreed under Pervez Musharraf. The current COAS, Gen Kayani, did nothing to change the status quo despite his anti-US posturing after the Abbottabad raid.
Haqqani is Zardari’s man. That helps deflect public opprobrium at the equally unpopular PPP regime which allegedly offered Mullen the deal in return for support to pre-empt a Army takeover blaming elected rulers for the Abbottabad fiasco that had caught the fauj napping. The strategy is to hang the civilian government by implicating it in a conspiracy against Rawalpindi.
Amid reports that ISI chief Shuja Pasha authenticated the memo after meeting the businessman-courier, the contents of the missive to Mullen have got into public domain, leaving the PPP regime scurrying for cover and showing the Army as the victim. Among the many blasphemous promises Zardari allegedly made to the Americans was one about booking the Pakistani perpetrators of Mumbai’s 26/11 even if some of them were part of the civil-military apparatus.
A passage from the memo makes startling read: “Request your direct intervention in conveying a strong, urgent and direct message to Gen Kayani that delivers Washington’s demand for him and (ISI chief) Gen Pasha to end their brinkmanship aimed at bringing down the civilian apparatus — that this is a 1971 (India-Pak war kind) moment in Pakistan’s history (when the Army’s image had hit the nadir as in the aftermath of the Abbotabad raid).
“Should you be willing, Washington’s political/military backing would result in a revamp of the civilian government that….in a wholesale manner replaces the national security advisor and other national security officials with trusted advisors that include ex-military and civilian leaders favorably viewed by Washington and having historical ties to the US military, political and intelligence communities,” the memo read.
It remains to be seen who all would pay for the unpardonable sin. But Zardari and the PPP are unlikely to emerge unscathed from this brawl.