Pakistanâ€™s envoy to U.S. quits in coup memo controversy
By Chris Allbritton
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistanâ€™s ambassador to the United States resigned on Tuesday, days after a Pakistani-American businessman said the envoy was behind a controversial memo that accused the Pakistani military of plotting a coup in May.
Envoy Husain Haqqani said in a Twitter message that he had sent his resignation to the prime minister. State television said his resignation had been accepted.
â€œI have much to contribute to building a new Pakistan free of bigotry & intolerance,â€ Haqqani said on Twitter. â€œWill focus energies on that.â€
Haqqani became entangled in controversy after the appearance of a column in the Financial Times on Oct 10.
In the column, businessman Mansoor Ijaz said a senior Pakistani diplomat had asked that a memo be delivered to the Pentagon with a plea for U.S. help to stave off a military coup in the days after the May 2 U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Ijaz later identified the diplomat as Haqqani.
No evidence has emerged that the military was plotting a coup and Haqqani denies involvement in the memo.
â€œI still maintain that I did not conceive, write or distribute the memo,â€ Haqqani told Reuters shortly after he resigned. â€œThis is not about the memo,â€ he continued. â€œThis is about bigger things.â€
He declined to comment further.
Haqqaniâ€™s resignation follows a meeting with Pakistan President Asif Zardari, the nationâ€™s powerful army chief General Ashfaq Kayani and its intelligence head Lieutenant-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha. A spokesman for the prime ministerâ€™s office said Haqqani was asked to resign and there would be an investigation into the memo.
Haqqani is close to Zardari but estranged from Pakistanâ€™s military.
Tensions between Pakistanâ€™s civilian government and military have bedeviled the nuclear-armed South Asian country for almost its entire existence, with the military ruling the country for more than half of its 64-year history in a series of coups.
Haqqaniâ€™s resignation was seen by many analysts as further weakening the civilian government, which is already beset by allegations of corruption and incompetence.
â€œThey (the military) may expect much more from the government, much more beyond the resignation of Husain Haqqani, because they see that everybody perceived to be involved in this affair will be seen as anti-military and by implication anti-state,â€ said Imtiaz Gul, a security analyst in Islamabad.
Haqqaniâ€™s successor might include a diplomat with a less complicated relationship with the military, perhaps Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir or Pakistanâ€™s envoy to the United Nations, Hussain Haroon.
â€œWhether Pakistanâ€™s people or its military will be represented in DC will become evident when Husain Haqqaniâ€™s replacement is announced,â€ Ali Dayan Hasan, representative for Human Rights Watch in Pakistan, said on Twitter.
It is unclear how far beyond Haqqani â€œmemogate,â€ as it is called in the Pakistani press, goes.
Ijaz initially said that Haqqani was acting under the authority of Zardari, which has opened up the president to public criticism in Pakistan that he was plotting against his own military. But Ijaz retreated from that claim and later said he wasnâ€™t sure how involved Zardari was in the memo controversy.
â€œI donâ€™t know if Haqqani had a blanket power of attorney with Zardari, whether he ever discussed this with Zardari or whether he was acting on his own,â€ Ijaz told Reuters on Nov 18. Mark Siegel, a lobbyist who represents the Pakistani government in Washington, said Zardari called him when the Financial Times story appeared, asking his law firm to initiate libel proceedings against the paper and against Ijaz.
Siegel advised Zardari against filing a case because he judged it difficult for a public figure to win a libel case in a U.S. court.
â€œHe was irate and said the memo was a total fabrication,â€ Siegel said. Siegel, who has known Zardari for 25 years, said he was absolutely certain that Zardari had known nothing about the memo.
(Additional reporting by Zeeshan Haider, Qasim Nauman and Augustine Anthony in Islamabad and Missy Ryan in Washington; Editing by Peter Graff)