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November 26, 2011

Memo from USA


November 26, 2011

Stay with the story. Act One is to follow. Haqqani and Ijaz’s jousting was just the prologue. They played their roles and then exited the stage, leaving behind the clowns, a motley of media people, as the chorus. Let’s not get distracted by their noise, let’s eyeball the opening scene. Think hard...if our intelligence agencies can grab hold of Haqqani’s BlackBerry record, they must have mined classified conversations and text messages of far more important people in Pakistan, say like the ‘king’ who sits atop the presidential hill from the ambassador’s phone.
Therefore, shut out the clattery clowns and wait for the chief character to emerge out of the shadows of his palace. I cannot tell you the story, but a drama always has a climax, an anti-hero, a hero and an end that can go either way – it can be a comedy of errors or a Faustian tragedy. How long will the drama last, you may well ask? Depends how prepared the actors are who have been given lines to learn or the producer/director who must mull over the timing, circumstances, the Pentagon’s nod, and his commanders support before letting the curtain drop.
There is no margin for error.
Those who stayed with this story are Shaheen Sehbai and Mohammad Malick. Doggedly the two pursued it from Washington and Islamabad respectively. But the first time Husain Haqqani’s name surfaced linking him with Mansoor Ijaz’s October 10 column in the Financial Times(FT) was right on this space in ‘Memo from USA’. I stuck my neck out to name our ambassador in Washington in my October 15 column ‘No smoke without fire’. I had to tread gingerly for I have been bitten before, many times, by the one-who-should-never-be-named. Apart from getting hate mail, the most vicious kind, some websites allegedly managed by our mission in DC spew spurious stuff on my journalistic ethics to discredit whatever I write on him.
Five days after Mansoor Ijaz’s FT column, which till today beats me why it failed

to make ‘breaking news’ in Pakistan, I floated the name of the one-who-should-never-be-named. Here’s what I wrote in my Oct 15 column: “Which US-based “senior Pakistani diplomat,” was Zardari’s messenger? Haqqanis dwell not only in Waziristan but in Washington too! Sunday last a senior columnist’s article ‘Killing the messengers’ was in defence of our ambassador in Washington: ‘There is no general like Sahibzada Yaqub Khan to at least record dissent with the nation’s madness... Our self-made and well-read man in Washington, Husain Haqqani, probably comes closest... [he] continues to quietly persuade Americans to be patient with Pakistan and to plead with Pakistanis to understand the global power equation. But at home he is reviled frequently for not joining the ‘Crush America’ ghairat brigade.’”
Bang! The very next morning I heard from sources close to our ambassador telling me how off the mark I was. Calling it a jihad against him by me, I was unequivocally told that if Ijaz had evidence of any role in delivering messages to the US government, it certainly did not come from anyone with the last name Haqqani.
For the following 18 days none mentioned Haqqani. The chorus of media clowns stood baying under the tree on which Mansoor Ijaz had climbed. They wanted to tear him apart. Finally, Imran Khan piped up the courage to name Haqqani before a crowd of millions come to hear him at Lahore on October 30. The next day while reporting the rally, Malick wrote: “during the past 48 hours alone we have heard from the Foreign Office, the president’s spokesman, Imran Khan and even from the beleaguered ambassador to Washington as well.”
Watch for this space. More is to come. Meanwhile can ambassador-designate Sherry Rehman clean out the spider’s web allegedly set up by the one-who-should-never-be-named? With him gone, the propaganda machinery against journalists should be wound up.
The writer is a freelance journalist. Email: [email protected]

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