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The farce called Memogate: More questions than answers

By Imtiaz Gul

The Express Tribune, Dec 29,2011

It can only happen in Pakistan; the national discourse is being held hostage to something that never happened – the contents of a controversial document, created by an equally controversial personality.

The manner in which Mansoor Ijaz’s statements were treated as ‘incontrovertible evidence’ of former ambassador Husain Haqqani’s role in what is now commonly referred to as Memogate is sad and mind-boggling for several reasons.

To start off, the memo itself has been presented as a matter of life and death for the security establishment. The Supreme Court, as well as several petitioners including Nawaz Sharif, seems to have consented to this view by admitting petitions and allowing counsels to argue on their maintainability.

Secondly, the 81-page affidavit submitted by Mansoor Ijaz to the Supreme Court made it quite obvious that the only alleged link between Haqqani and the memo were Ijaz’s handwritten notes about a telephone call. None of the text messages and Blackberry messages (BBM) included in the affidavit refer to the memo.

In fact, two purported BBMs, released by the media earlier, which pointed at links to Haqqani with the memo, were missing from Ijaz’s affidavit to the Supreme Court.

The question that now remains to be unanswered is how the petitioners will prove Haqqani’s links to the memo as, based on the affidavit, the entire case now stands on an alleged telephone conversation.

Haqqani’s lawyer Asma Jehangir has also pointed out how the rest of the 81-page affidavit and alleged transcripts of text messages and BBM conversations were immaterial to the case. At best, they established communication between Haqqani and Ijaz but didn’t shed any light on the Memo.

Page 78 of Ijaz’s affidavit makes an interesting read as it speaks of Pakistani government officials “who served at the highest levels of the military-intelligence directorates in recent years and senior political officers of the civilian government.”  These words were part of Mansoor Ijaz’s email to Gen. James Jones, stating:  “I am attaching herewith a document that has been prepared by senior active and former Pakistani government officials ….” Here, Ijaz speaks of government and intelligence officials and not of a diplomat (Haqqani).

The direct inference that legal experts draw from this paragraph is the absence of any mention of Haqqani’s involvement or role in the document that most within the military establishment and the judiciary have been treating as “biblical words”, meriting a thorough investigation of proposals which never saw the light of the day.

Conspicuously, some Pakistani media outlets projected the Memogate case as a noose that would soon strangulate, first the former ambassador and then his boss, the president. Mansoor Ijaz pointed to a similar scenario in an article on cnn.com in which he described Haqqani as an “honourable” public servant, also requesting immunity for him so he could name the president involvement and force his ouster.

By implication, the expectation was that Husain Haqqani would turn against Zardari. Pretty naïve expectation, one must say.  The eagerness with which Ijaz and the DG ISI met up in London within 12 days of publication of an article (in which Ijaz demanded declaring a section of the ISI “a global sponsor of terrorism”), was equally suspicious. It also raises doubts as to why the ISI chief decided to personally meet a person, who claims of having contacts with intelligence agencies in more than two dozen countries.

Ijaz has, in the past, made claims that benefitted one agency or another before being proved wrong. While in each case, the intelligence agencies seem to have been the prime beneficiary of Ijaz’s claims.

One would hope that the Supreme Court, analysts and writers accord due attention to some of the questions above to decipher the real motives of a memo that continues to consume the attention of the government and military. The real security threats at the moment stem from power and gas outages, crippling inflation, and millions of marginalised people. Protests against power and gas shortages in the past few days are more alarming than a document that mostly just draws skepticism from all quarters. The Memogate case requires a dispassionate, critical review, more in the light of current insecurities face by the country rather than purported threats that never transcended email exchanges.

Imtiaz Gul is the Executive Director of the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, and is currently a Fellow of International House of Japan/Japan Foundation, Tokyo

Email: imtiaz@crss.pk