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Pakistan envoy in US resigns over memo

23 November 2011, 11:26

Islamabad - Pakistan's envoy to the United States resigned on Tuesday, losing a bruising battle with the country's powerful generals to keep his job over allegations he wrote a memo to Washington asking for its help to stop them from carrying out a supposed coup.

Hussain Haqqani said he stood by earlier denials, insisting he had nothing to do with the memo that was sent to then-US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen in May.

The prime minister promised an investigation into the affair, which has raised tensions between the country's civilian government and the army at a vital stage in the 10-year old Afghan war next door.

Haqqani is a key ally of President Asif Ali Zardari and was generally well regarded in Washington, where he had a difficult job representing Pakistan during several crises, including the aftermath of the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May.

It was not immediately known who would replace Haqqani in a post considered crucial, given Washington's desire to work with Pakistan to defeat al-Qaeda and negotiate a way out of the Afghan war.

Relations between the two countries have soured badly over the last year, especially over the bin Laden raid, with the US carried out without informing Pakistan in advance.

The memo, made public by a Pakistani American businessman who claimed to have delivered to Mullen on Haqqani's behalf, accuses army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani of plotting to bring down the government in the aftermath of the raid against Osama bin Laden on May 2.

It asks Mullen for his "direct intervention" with Kayani to stop this.

Enrage the army

In return, it promises a raft of policies long asked for by Washington and likely to enrage the army.

It says the government would allow the US to propose names of officials to investigate bin Laden's presence in Pakistan, facilitate American attempts to target militants like al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri and Taliban chief Mullah Omar and allow the US greater oversight of Pakistan's nuclear weapons.

Haqqani offered to resign last week when the scandal, dubbed "memogate," broke.

"I have resigned to bring closure to this meaningless controversy threatening our fledgling democracy," he said in a statement.

Despite being under nominal civilian control, Pakistan's military wields immense political and economic clout, and that divide has dogged Pakistani history. It has seized power in at least three coups and has helped dislodge other civilian governments.

Given that background, the affair has also led to pressure on the Zardari government, which some have speculated may have also known about the alleged memo.

Critics in the media, many viewed as proxies for the military establishment, have been calling for the president to be investigated, suggesting the memo could be treasonous.

It remained to be seen whether Haqqani's resignation would put an end to the affair.

A statement from the prime minister's office said an investigation into the affair would be conducted "at an appropriate level" and would be "carried out fairly, objectively and without bias".

Haqqani has long been viewed by critics as too close to America, regarded by many here as a hostile force, and to Zardari, who is also unpopular at home. Haqqani was a critic of the army's role in Pakistan and sought to reduce it, but was also an eloquent defender of the country in Washington.

Supporters of Haqqani alleged he is the victim of a conspiracy by the army establishment, which has never liked him or the Zardari government.

- AP


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