The Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani has offered to resign from his position in the wake of reports that he sought the help of American officials to reduce the power and influence of Pakistan’s military, following the discovery of Osama bin Laden in the country last May.
The Islamabad government apparently has not yet accepted his resignation, according to a report in Dawn, the English-language Pakistani daily.
Farhatullah Babar, a Pakistani presidential spokesman, told media that the government has summoned Haqqani to Islamabad to explain his actions.
The controversy erupted in an October 10 column in Britain’s Financial Times newspaper in which Mansoor Ijaz, an American citizen of Pakistani origin and a lobbyist, claimed that an unnamed senior Islamabad diplomat asked him to pass a note from President Asif Ali Zardari to Washington’s top military official at the time, Admiral Mike Mullen, asking for its help to rein in the Pakistani military.
In the memo, Zardari reportedly offered to pressure Pakistan’s notorious intelligence service ISI into curbing its support for militants in exchange for Mullen’s help in scaling back the power of the nation’s military complex.
This request allegedly occurred on May 9, just one week after U.S. commandos found and killed Osama in a compound near Islamabad.
Ijaz alleged that Zardari was fearful that the mission to kill Osama (which Pakistan’s military supposedly did not know about) had so enraged and humiliated army brass that they might seek to stage a coup in the country. (Pakistan has witnessed many such coups in its 60-year history).
The embarrassment of Bin Laden being found on Pakistani soil had humiliated Mr. Zardari's weak civilian government to such an extent that the president feared a military takeover was imminent, the column said.
He needed an American fist on his army chief's desk to end any misguided notions of a coup -- and fast.”
Now, there is controversy over the very existence of the memo.
While Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry has dismissed the Financial Times’ report ”a total fabrication,” a spokesman for Mullen (who has since retired) told Foreign Policy magazine that Mullen did indeed receive such a memo from Ijaz. However, he added that his boss did not find the note credible and ignored it.
Haqqani apparently fears that Pakistani authorities suspect he is the unnamed diplomat mentioned in the column and now he is prepared to quit his job in order to end the imbroglio. He has denied writing or delivering such a memo, but has nonetheless offered to step down.
”I do not want this non-issue of an insignificant memo written by a private individual and not considered credible by its lone recipient to undermine democracy,” Haqqani told The Associated Press.
Not surprisingly, Pakistan’s army is angered over the entire affair.
The army chief, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, has reportedly met with Pakistan’s president to discuss the memo and its aftermath but it is unclear what they decided to do.
Meanwhile, Haqqani claims the Pakistani military seeks to undermine him because he has endorsed stronger relations between the U.S. and Pakistan’s civilian government.
I've been consistently vilified as being against the Pakistani military even though I have only opposed military intervention in political affairs, he reportedly wrote in a letter to Zardari.
It's not easy to operate under the shadow of innuendo and I have not been named by anyone so far, but I am offering to resign in the national interest and leave that to the will of the president.
Haqqani will appear before government officials in Islamabad in the next few days.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told media: Whether he's ambassador or not, he has to come to Islamabad to explain his position.”