The release of the long overdue Memo Commission Report on June 12, coinciding with the appearance of Malik Riaz in the Supreme Court, whereby the tycoon claims to have injected over Rs 39 crore to subvert the judiciary, once collectively viewed, is symptomatic of an unfolding diabolic design to discredit, compromise and contaminate major state institutions of Pakistan. While the writing of a memo by Husain Haqqani to Admiral Mike Mullen was an attempt to marshal US support to cut the Pak Army down to size and denigrate the security of Pakistan’s strategic assets, Arsalangate is manifestly primed to sully the shining credentials of the judiciary, which has emerged as a major bulwark in stemming the rot threatening to inundate Pakistan.
Underscoring the much hyped US propaganda that Pakistani nuclear assets were “now legitimate targets [for the Taliban and their sympathisers]”, the memo offered to bring these “under a more verifiable, transparent regime.” While attempting to clip the wings of the ISI, when the agency is locked in a struggle with the CIA to retain the control of its home turf, it offered to eliminate Section ‘S’ in order to provide an unhindered field of action to outside agencies to run amok in Pakistan’s hinterland.
When The Financial Times story broke, there was a stunning silence in Pakistan, generating a crippling inertia that pre-empted any serious attempt to investigate and refute it. It was the ISI that took the lead in establishing the veracity of the memo and the army that stood by its stance to have the issue thoroughly scrutinised to clear the damaging charges that cast unacceptable aspersions on its institutional integrity. The allegations of Pakistan’s Ambassador opening up clandestine channels of communications with the US powerbrokers, asking for their meddlesome interference in highly sensitive areas related to country’s security and offering quid pro quos were toxic; the authenticity of the memo and the identity of its originator emerged as vital issues. The job was clearly cut out, but reaching to the heart of the matter was easier said than done. With Haqqani crying foul and political quarters maintaining a stiff silence, the formation of a Judicial Commission by the Supreme Court of Pakistan to examine the available evidence and listen to those who mattered was a much needed step, particularly when the ex-Ambassador and a significant segment of opinion claimed the memo to be a farce. Not surprisingly, a well orchestrated campaign took off in major engines of the international media with the US-based politico-academic circles spearheading a campaign to get Haqqani off the hook and in the process discredit the Pakistan Army and the ISI.
Three US Senators, including Senator McCain, expressed reservations about the treatment of the former Ambassador, while 16 foreign policy experts belonging to renowned research institutions wrote a letter, organised by Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation and former CIA officer Bruce Riedel currently at the Brookings Institute, calling upon Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to do all she could to ensure the fair treatment and safety of Haqqani. It is worth noting that although at the time the ex-Ambassador was ensconced in the guest quarters of the Prime Minister House, yet he tried to communicate a perception of vulnerability from fundamentalist forces by evoking similarities with Salman Taseer’s murder. From such safe quarters, the New York Times quoted him as saying that he was virtually under house arrest, while his lawyer feared that the ISI “might pick up and torture him” to elicit a confession of treason.
Concurrently, Farahnaz Ispahani, Haqqani’s wife, used the podium of the CNN to declare that her husband had no role in writing the memo and quoted Admiral Mike Mullen and General Jim Jones, who respectively believed that the memo was not credible and that Haqqani had nothing to do with the episode.
The findings of the Supreme Court appointed commission came at an important time to douse the flames of propaganda against the army and the ISI, by upholding the incontrovertible genuineness of the memo and nominating ex-Ambassador Haqqani as its originator. Its findings have raised serious questions about his motives and loyalty, whereby he seemed to be working in close alignment with the US objectives and dovetailing his personal ambitions into a US sponsored design for Pakistan. He attempted to create a scenario, whereby an unfettered ‘friendship’ between the political leadership and the US administration could be ensured by sidelining the army so that a foreign country “with impunity could meddle in and run our [Pakistan’s] affairs.” Quixotically, he sought to set up a national security team to take care of the projected Pak-US relations in which he sought the top slot himself.
While looking back at the eye-opening findings of the Memo Commission one has to be cognisant that but for the firm stand taken by the army and the ISI, the reality of the memogate would never have seen the light of the day. By steadfastly taking a stand and in face of torrential propaganda by vested interests, at home and abroad, the Pak Army and ISI stood their ground that it was a real, deliberate and deep-seated conspiracy, rather than a figment of imagination or a poorly fabricated charade to destabilise the political dispensation. The writing on the wall is there for all to see. The Supreme Court has now ordered Haqqani to appear before it to answer about the commission’s findings. It is a moment of truth and a test of character for the ‘accomplished academician and diplomat’ reputed to have ‘the golden tongue’ - and a fertile penchant for intrigue and bluster.
n The writer is a freelance columnist.