A consensus was apparently reached in Pakistan’s National Assembly on Wednesday where all parties appeared to be backing up the demand of Defense Minister, Khawaja Asif, to set up a joint parliamentary commission to investigate the role of Hussain Haqqani, former ambassador to the US, during PPP government. This political controversy has been set into motion as a result of a piece recently written by the former ambassador in The Washington Post.
Khawaja Asif, Pakistan’s defense minister said today in the National Assembly: “This article is directly related to our national security and the top two office bearers of the government at that time and needs to be investigated by a parliamentary commission.” When he talked of “top two office bearers” he was referring to the possible role of Asif Ali Zardari, former president, and Yousaf Raza Gilani, former prime minister along with the ex-ambassador, Hussain Haqqani.
Defense Minister further added, “Issues such as granting visas to US nationals from Washington and Dubai, the operation to kill Osama Bin Laden, and the killing of our people by US agents needs a threadbare and open probe in the presence of the national media so that such issues are settled once and for all.”
In “off the record” comments, a senior political analyst described the whole proceeding as “a storm in the tea cup”. These are mere political optics to divert public attention before the expected decision of Supreme Court in Panama Case; no one should expect Nawaz government to take any real steps against Asif Ali Zardari, they are partners in politics; he added.
Khawaja Asif asserted that the incidents mentioned in Haqqani’s article are on record as he reminded the house of the statements of the then Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and an article published by former president Asif Ali Zardari in Washington Post. He was referring to the piece, “Pakistan did its part” by Ex-President that appeared in Washington Post on May 2, 2011 – within hours of the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbotabad by the US forces. The timing of the publication of the piece had stunned the Pakistani public and media and most suspected that the piece may have been written by ambassador Haqqani, himself.
“Not only this article, but also the issuance of visas and issue of unsuitable expenses totalling $6 million, for which no track was found, merit a proper investigation,” the defense minister asserted. Minister further said, that the matter is also serious in the context that Haqqani had hurled allegations against the two most important functionaries of the state. Without naming he was referring to Asif Ali Zardari and Yousaf Raza Gilani, the then president and prime minister of Pakistan.
“The same functionaries had owned Haqqani as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US. Therefore, it is imperative to also investigate if there had been any linkages between these functionaries and Haqqani.” Khawaja said, the issues mentioned in Hussain Haqqani’s article haunt parliamentarians time and again as, apparently according to Khawaja, Haqqani has claimed that different happenings of that era such as covert operations and the killing of innocent Pakistanis were also connected to former interior minister Rehman Malik.
Opposition, including PPP, supported the Joint Parliamentary Commission
Asif, building his case against the PPP leadership, said it was not for the first time that Haqqani had resorted to such an act. “The facts stated in his article were never denied by the PPPP leadership at the highest level. We think it is a breach of national security and needs to be investigated.” Khursheed Shah, the Opposition Leader in the house, endorsing the demand of the defence minister, supported the constitution of a Joint Parliamentary Commission that should investigate Haqqani’s article, Memogate, bin Laden’s killing, and the connections of Pakistanis with him.
“Such an investigation will strengthen Parliament. Let us call a spade a spade and settle these issues once and for all,” Khursheed Shah asserted.
MQM’s Sheikh Salahuddin and PTI’s Shafqat Mahmood and Arif Alvi also supported the demand for a Parliamentary Commission. But they also wanted an open investigation as they deemed the article to be a breach of national security.
The opposition members also demanded probes into other issues such as Memogate, the Abbottabad Commission report, issuance of visas to US nationals, and unsuitable expenditure by Haqqani during his tenure as ambassador. Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi consented to the opinion of the House and asked political parties to start working on the ToRs of the commission so it could be announced and approved in the House through a motion.
PML-N leader, Zafar Ali Shah, petitions SC to put Asif Zardari and Yousuf Raza Gilani’s names on ECL
In addition to what was happening in the National Assembly, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) leader Zafar Ali Shah has approached the Supreme Court seeking directions to the federal government to initiate high treason proceedings against Ambassador Hussain Haqqani.
The petition was filed by Shah under Article 184 (3) of the constitution and calls for the registration of a treason case against Zardari, Gilani and Haqqani for violating their respective oaths.
Zafar Ali Shah, in his petition asserted that Haqqani was the main player in Memogate, which is still pending in the apex court. Further, he requested the SC to pass direction to the interior ministry for placing Zardari and Gilani’s names on the ECL.
Few in Pakistani media and civil society believe that defense minister and the government are serious in pursuing any cases against ambassador Haqqani, ex-president Zardari and ex-premier Yousaf Raza Gilani. In 2011 and 2012, Nawaz Sharif and his party were the petitioners in SC against Hussain Haqqani in what is now famous as the ‘Memogate scandal’. This legal and political controversy raged for several months without any substantive outcome.
Ambassador Haqqani, was allowed to leave Pakistan for United States, on the condition that he will return when needed by the Supreme Court; he however never returned and the whole case died down. In “off the record” comments, a senior political analyst described the whole proceeding in Pakistan’s National Assembly as “a storm in the tea cup”. These are mere political optics to divert public attention before the expected decision of Supreme Court in Panama Case; no one should expect Nawaz government to take any real steps against Asif Ali Zardari, they are partners in politics; he added.