Pakistan’s former U.S. envoy now fears for his life

Laura Rozen
The Envoy

Former Pakistani ambassador to Washington Husain Haqqani has been caught in a showdown between Pakistan's army and civilian leaders, and now says he fears for his safety.

Haqqani was recalled to Islamabad in November amid accusations by a Pakistani-American businessman of involvement in the delivery to American officials of a memo accusing the Pakistani military of plotting a coup. The former ambassador has since sought refuge in the home of Pakistani prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani out of concern for his security, Reuters reported Friday.

"I just want my media trial and harassment to end," Haqqani, a former scholar at Boston University, told Yahoo News by email Friday. "If anyone thinks they can file charges against me, I will face them in court with due process. But to keep claiming that I somehow jeopardized Pakistani national security by joining an individual in sending a memo consigned by its recipient to the dustbin is absurd and unjust."

On Thursday, Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Joe Lieberman (Ind-Conn.), and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) issued a statement expressing alarm at reports of harassment and threats against Haqqani.

"We are increasingly troubled by Ambassador Haqqani's treatment since he returned home to Pakistan, including the travel ban imposed on him," the statement read. "We urge Pakistani authorities to resolve this matter swiftly and consistent with civilian rule of law and to prevent the judicial commission investigating Ambassador Haqqani from becoming a political tool for revenge against an honorable man."

A travel ban has been imposed on Haqqani while a Pakistan judiciary commission undertakes an investigation into the affair. It was launched by Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz, who alleged an October Financial Times op-ed that he had delivered a memo to American officials in the wake of the U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden last year seeking to stave off a Pakistani military coup.

The memo, Ijaz has subsequently asserted in various, sometimes-conflicting accounts, was delivered to then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen on behalf of Haqqani and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. It reportedly sought help in sidelining units of Pakistan's military and intelligence service sympathetic to jihadi militants. Haqqani has denied numerous aspects of Ijaz's account. But Pakistan's powerful military and intelligence leaders have seized on it to further pressure and intimidate Pakistan's weak civilian rulers.

"Watchers of Pakistan's sordid history of military intrusion into civilian affairs understand the rich irony of this current saga," Pakistan expert C. Christine Fair wrote at Foreign Policy Friday. "Not one of the generals who have overthrown varied governments has ever been charged with treason."

"So let's call the devil by his name," Fair continued. "Memogate should be understood as a sophisticated attempt by the Army and intelligence agency to use the court to bring down this government, not just a titillating imbroglio involving Husain Haqqani."

Haqqani expressed gratitude to former Obama national security advisor Jim Jones who delivered the memo from Ijaz to Mullen. Jones has reportedly offered sworn testimony that to his knowledge, Haqqani did not have any role in authoring the memo. Mullen has previously acknowledged through a spokesman receiving the memo, but said he did not pay any attention to it.

"I am grateful that General Jones finally helped set the record straight," Haqqani told Yahoo News. "But the issue that I have been dragged into would have been less of an issue in Pakistan if folks in Washington had been clearer from the start about who sent the disputed memo and how it was disregarded because of its less than credible origins."

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