After proceedings stretching over six months, the three-member commission set up by the Supreme Court on the Memogate scandal reached an unambiguous conclusion. “It has been incontrovertibly established,” the commission said in its report to the Supreme Court, “that the memorandum was authentic and Husain Haqqani was the originator and architect.” However, the commission left unanswered the question as to under whose instructions Haqqani sent the memo pleading for US intervention to install a new pro-American military leadership in Pakistan and to place the country’s nuclear programme under control.
The commission was charged with determining “the origin, purpose and authenticity” of the memo. Having found that it was authentic and that it had been authored by Haqqani, the commission apparently felt that its mandate did not require it to delve into the matter further and identify the person referred to in the BlackBerry messages as the “boss,” commonly understood as a reference to Zardari. The memo was clearly not a rogue operation but was sent under orders of the political leadership. The commission did not try to unmask those who gave those orders.
Despite this, the commission deserves to be complimented for the thoroughness and boldness with which it pursued its task and the clarity of its conclusions, in refreshing contrast to the record of most inquiry committees which end either in a whitewash or in further obfuscation of the issues they were charged to investigate. The Pakistani public will now judge the Abbottabad inquiry panel, the mother of all commissions, by the standards set by the Memogate inquiry.
The Memogate Commission is to be congratulated all the more because it reached its findings despite the obstructions placed in its path by the Zardari government and the shenanigans of Haqqani. Mansoor Ijaz braved threats to his person to testify before the commission, gave a full account of his exchanges with Haqqani and submitted his laptop and BlackBerry devices for examination by forensic experts. Haqqani, in contrast, tried every possible trick to evade the inquiry. He conveniently “lost” his Blackberry handsets, broke the promise he had made to the Supreme Court to appear at four days’ notice and ended up “boycotting” the proceedings, including the forensic tests of the BBMs and emails. Fortunately, we were also spared the empty oratory of Raza Rabbani who, as chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, at first scented another chance of making his mark by inquiring into the Memogate case but gave up soon enough after it dawned on him that the committee had no investigative powers.
Haqqani and his legal team have predictably rejected the commission’s findings as biased and one-sided. In an article in The Washington Post, Haqqani writes that his real “crime” was that he stood up for US-Pakistan relations. He again protests that he had nothing to do with writing and sending the memo, but at the same time maintains that its contents suggesting changes in Pakistan’s counterterrorism and nuclear policies [emphasis added] “reflect reasonable views that are in line with global thinking.” The article is primarily aimed at gaining sympathy in Washington in the hope that the US would use its diplomatic and political clout to save Haqqani from being formally charged under Pakistani law as a follow-up to the commission’s findings.
But Haqqani’s support for changes in Pakistan’s nuclear policy on the lines suggested in the memo is an important giveaway. The memo spoke of “(developing) an acceptable framework of discipline” for Pakistan’s nuclear programme and putting “Pakistan’s nuclear assets under a more verifiable, transparent regime.” Obviously, the reference is not to Pakistan’s civilian nuclear power programme but to its nuclear deterrent. Anyone who supports this policy, as Haqqani does, is in effect calling for a rollback of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme.
Besides, Haqqani has also been complicit in the Zardari government’s failure to pursue the demand for lifting the international embargo on civil nuclear cooperation with Pakistan. In his speech in Karachi last December, Shah Mahmood Qureshi warned that Zardari was a threat to our nuclear weapons programme because he might barter it away for personal benefit. In this connection, Qureshi recalled that Zardari had overruled instructions sent by the foreign ministry in August 2008 to our mission in Vienna that during consideration of the India-US civil nuclear deal by the International Atomic Energy Agency, our representative should insist on non-discriminatory treatment in favour of Pakistan. Qureshi should have added that behind Zardari’s decision to cancel the foreign ministry’s instructions, there was also the hand of Haqqani, acting in collaboration with the US State Department.
Another little-known fact about Haqqani’s “services” to Pakistan-US friendship is that he omitted – whether deliberately or due to a failure of judgment – to forewarn Islamabad before Obama’s visit to India in November 2010 that the US president would be announcing support for India’s being made a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Although the foreign ministry, the National Assembly and the cabinet expressed their concern and disappointment at US support for India’s ambitions, the State Department spokesman said that Pakistan had not expressed any particular concern. “I think they understand what we told them,” he said. Clearly, he was referring to a message that Haqqani had conveyed to the State Department, which was very different from the position that the government had taken in Islamabad for domestic consumption.
Other instances of Haqqani’s contributions to “strengthening Pakistan’s relations with the US” are better-known. Among them is his work with American officials and lawmakers to include provisions in the Kerry-Lugar bill which are inconsistent with Pakistan’s sovereignty. Even more damaging to Pakistan’s security is the wholesale issuance by Haqqani of visas to CIA personnel and others which has enabled US to set up a vast intelligence network.
Pakistan’s tragedy is that those who are powerful or have their backing get away with impunity far too often, whether it is on charges of treason, corruption or other serious offences. Musharraf committed treason twice – in 1999 and 2007 – but has not been tried by the government because that does not suit Zardari. Zardari himself has been evading trial on corruption charges after the invalidation of the NRO by claiming immunity under the Constitution. In the case of Shakil Afridi, Washington is pressing hard for his release. The Zardari government is expected to comply.
Haqqani has not been charged yet with any offence for his murky role in the Memogate affair. The Supreme Court will be hearing the case next week. Even if Haqqani is prosecuted, the chances of his conviction are slim because the Zardari government does not want him to be punished.
Besides, Pakistan’s law is full of loopholes. The Pakistan Penal Code makes it an offence to wage war against the state; and the Constitution makes subversion of the Constitution punishable as high treason. Both are capital offences. But there is no law to punish other acts that undermine the country’s independence or sovereignty, such as abetting the commission of these acts by another state. Only some of these acts are covered by the Official Secrets Act 1923.
Unlike most countries, foreign governments and their agencies, overt and covert, enjoy complete freedom in Pakistan.” It is no wonder then that Pakistan’s sovereignty has come to be regarded as an easy target.
The writer is a former member of the Pakistan Foreign Service. Email: email@example.com