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Negotiated settlement in the memo controversy?

Mohammad Akram Sheikh
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Islamabad


On the evening of 16th of December, 2011, which marks the 40th year of bifurcation of the state of Pakistan and emergence of Bangladesh as an independent country comprising Pakistan’s territories of East Pakistan, a three hours long meeting is announced by the PM House which has taken place between the Prime Minister and the COAS Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani that was also attended by the attorney general of Pakistan.

This meeting raises a very disturbing but fundamental question as to the minutes of this meeting that have not been released.

Only one day before this meeting, the COAS and DG ISI, who are parties to the constitution petitions filed before the Supreme Court of Pakistan by Barrister Zafar Ullah Khan and another as well as Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, along with other leaders of his party, demanding a probe into the controversial memo allegedly written on behalf of Pakistan’s top leadership to Admiral Mike Mullen duly admitted by Adm Mullen as also former security adviser Gen James L Jones as a document having been received from their close confidant, Ijaz Mansoor. This meeting raises fundamental questions to the contents and discussions that have taken place because of the divergent stand taken by the federation and the Armed Forces leaders.

The COAS had categorically submitted before the Supreme Court that a probe should be conducted into the circumstances leading to the memo and the persons behind writing of the same be identified in order to remove the discomfort and frustration which is wide spread in the ranks and files of the Armed Forces.

While the writer vociferously opposes any unconstitutional change of the government, the nation and those who have sacrificed their lives in the war on terror are disturbed over the agenda of this meeting particularly in view of “Dhaka Debacle” taking place 40 years from the meeting day as the nation lost half of its territories on account of the unfortunate decisions taken by a political and military leadership 40 years earlier.

The Federal Government and the Armed Forces having taken conflicting positions which developed a conflict of interest between two of them more so immediately before the hearing of this case scheduled for 19th December, 2011, and the presence of the attorney general in this meeting reasonably leads to the only conclusion that PM Gilani is persuading the COAS not to say at the hearing what they have said in their replies and to desist from demanding an inquiry into the controversial memo.

It goes without saying that if the memo is found correct and the dignitaries behind the same are also identified during the investigation, it would lead to serious repercussion on the sovereignty of Pakistan, including its nuclear assets.

Gen Kayani said and underscored that the episode “has an impact on the national security and attempts to lower the morale Pakistan army.”

Gen Pasha demanded a detailed investigation, saying, “Access to unadulterated truth and justice is a right of the people of Pakistan, the real sovereign masters of this country.”

The ISI chief also asked the court to summon Mr Ijaz, who had kick-started the controversy through an article in the Financial Times on Oct 10 and get the computers, cell phones and BlackBerry devices of Mr Haqqani and Mr Ijaz for which he offered to “render necessary assistance to its SC’s appointed commission.”

“It was, therefore, important that complete details be established as early as possible. I strongly recommended to the prime minister that our ambassador to the United States, who was best suited and informed on the matter, be called to brief the country’s leadership. Gen Kayani said and went on to narrate his subsequent meetings with President Asif Zardari and PM Gilani on the issue, including the last in the series in which Mr Haqqani was heard and asked to quit.

Gen Pasha, narrating his meeting with president Zardari on Nov 18, said he recommended to the president that “the issue pertained to national security and that it should not be taken lightly. I suggested to the president that it will be in the fitness of things to ask our ambassador in Washington to verify or contradict the matter.”

The army chief also gave a brief account of a briefing he received on the issue from Gen Pasha on Oct 24 after the spy chief had met Mr Ijaz in London.

“He (Gen Pasha) opined that the evidence shown to him by Mr Mansoor Ijaz was enough to establish that Mr Mansoor Ijaz remained in touch with Mr Husain Haqqani from 9 May, 2011, onwards and exchanged numerous text messages and telephone calls. As per DG ISI’s assessment, the sequence and contents of text messages and telephone calls created a reasonable doubt regarding Mr Husain Haqqani’s association with the memo.” The ISI chief gives an insight into how he got in touch with Mr Ijaz through an unnamed ‘source’ and that the meeting was set up in London on Oct 22 following the publication of the businessman’s article in Financial Times.

In addition to the details about his meeting with Mr Ijaz in which the latter explained the context of the issue and shared related information, Gen Pasha specially refers to his demand for seeing the devices used for communication to believe his (Ijaz’s) story.

“Having seen these means of communication used, I was satisfied that he had enough corroborative material to prove his version of the incident,” the ISI chief said.

As a citizen and taxpayer of this country, along with the families of the martyrs who have laid down their lives defending sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan, including 24 officers and Jawans who were recently massacred in Salalah attack, are entitled to ask the prime minister and the COAS to disclose and place before the nation the agenda/minutes of this three hours long meeting so that any endeavour to negotiate the sovereignty and national integrity of Pakistan could be stopped.

A common man in Pakistan does not want the military hegemony or its supremacy over the civilian government, nor does it countenance or approve the ocean of corruption rampant for the last three and half years of the incumbent government by the ruling elite, but it certainly has a right to ask and ensure that there is no “negotiated settlement” between the two leaders on the memo controversy because as a result of any such settlement, it is not the assets of the national institutions, but the country itself along with its sovereignty and territorial integrity with its nuclear capability which is at stake if the controversial memo was issued at the behest of “the boss” which question must find its answer as a result of an impartial and independent inquiry; therefore, it is paramount that the agenda and the minutes of the three hours long meeting be placed before this nation for everyone’s satisfaction.

The writer is a Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.