Pakistan Recalls US Envoy: Claims Grow that Zardari Sought to Move Against Military
Ambassador Haqqani Offered to Resign to ‘Quiet’ Dispute
The Pakistani civilian government announced today that it is recalling Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani to answer questions related to the growing scandal surrounding claims that he and President Zardari sought US help in moving against top Pakistani military officials earlier this summer.
Haqqani, seen as a top aide to Zardari, has offered to resign if it would end the investigation into the allegations, which emerged last month after a Pakistani-American businessman named Mansour Ijaz claimed he had been involved in a plot to deliver a personal letter from Zardari to Admiral Michael Mullen detailing the plan. Ijaz claimed the letter was given to him by a senior diplomat at Haqqani’s post.
Under the putative plan, Zardari would have promised to dramatically weaken the Pakistani military intelligence branch the ISI, including totally disbanding its Afghanistan unit, in return for US military support in a move against Pakistan’s armed forces.
Zardari reportedly feared, in the wake of the US assassination of Osama bin Laden, that the growing public discontent with the military’s inability to find bin Laden so close to its base, coupled with its inability to do anything about the US raid, would prompt the military to orchestrate a coup d’etat against his already shaky government. Zardari denied any involvement in the plot.
The Pentagon initially denied that Mullen had ever received a letter, but spokesman Capt. John Kirby later conceded that Mullen had in fact gotten the letter, just as Ijaz said. Kirby insisted that the letter was dismissed as “not at all credible.”
The revelation is liable to significantly weaken the Zardari government, which is already under considerable fire domestically for its cozy relationship with the US. It will likely also fuel anti-American sentiment across Pakistan, particularly in military circles, where US air strikes against Pakistani territory are seen as a considerable threat, and one the civilian government is not taking at all seriously.