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Editorial

March 10, 2018

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The strange case of...

Husain Haqqani was never far from controversy when he served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US. From his alleged role in supporting the ‘controversial’ Kerry-Lugar aid bill to the issuing of visas to suspected US spies, Haqqani became a lightning rod for critics of the PPP government. Now, after a period of more than five years, the Supreme Court is hearing a petition on the infamous Memogate affair. The government has assured the Supreme Court that it will take every measure to bring Haqqani back to Pakistan from the US and has contacted Interpol to issue a warrant. On purely technical grounds, this is unlikely to transpire. Interpol itself does not have the authority to arrest anyone and Pakistan does not have an extradition treaty with the US. Moreover, since Haqqani is yet to be charged with a crime, there are no grounds for approaching a US court for his return. As for whether a case can be filed against Haqqani, everyone involved should proceed with caution. The last thing we should do is end up litigating political differences in court.

There may be some complexities to the Memogate case that need to be looked at once again. Before taking action against an individual, there has to be evidence that he was operating on his own and not following the wishes of the government he served – assuming the individual has indeed done what is alleged. The context in which the scandal arose should also be considered. At the time, Pakistan was facing international indignity after Osama bin Laden was found to be living in the country. We faced the humiliation of an undetected US raid, and tensions between state institutions were at their highest. The treason charges against Haqqani are very serious and should only be levelled with proof. Moreover, Pakistan’s international alliances and obligations should be kept in mind. Anything that brings further suspicion to Pakistan would be better avoided. Haqqani himself has denied any wrongdoing and, like all suspects, he must be granted the presumption of innocence. In our past, allegations of being anti-state have been used to whip up nationalist fervour against unfavoured individuals. That, too, should not happen again. While rule of law must be respected at all times, policy differences can be addressed without dangerous invective.

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