News Analysis |
After 7 years, disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Tuesday that his involvement in the 2011 Memogate scandal was a mistake and that he should have kept his distance from it. Memogate scandal ensnared the previous government of the Pakistan’s People Party.
“I should have had nothing to do with the case,” he told reporters inside the accountability court conducting the Sharif family’s trial in connection with three references of the National Accountability Court (NAB). “I should have stayed away from the case.”
The PPP meanwhile welcomed the statement; however, they wondered why it took Nawaz so long as well as a disgraceful fall from power to acknowledge his mistake. Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) representative Senator Maula Baksh Chandio on Tuesday quoted a line of a couplet of Mirza Ghalib in a reaction to the statement of Nawaz Sharif on the Memogate case. In a statement issued to the media, Chandio quoted the verse: After killing me, he repented: he will hurt no one anymore, what a swift repenting!”
The history of Pakistan civil leadership has been marked with anti-state conspiracies such as the Agartala Conspiracy case, PPP’s attempt to woo India in Zia era as well as Nawaz Sharif’s attempt in 1999 to turn into “Amir ul Momineen”.
The Memogate controversy (also Mullen memo controversy) revolves around a memorandum (addressed to Admiral Mike Mullen) ostensibly seeking help of the Obama administration in the wake of the Osama bin Laden raid to avert a military takeover of the civilian government in Pakistan, as well as assisting in a civilian takeover of the government and military apparatus. The memo was delivered in May 2011; Mansoor Ijaz wrote a Financial Times article in October 2011 bringing initial public attention to the affair. The memo was published in November leading to the resignation of Ambassador Haqqani and the continuing Pakistani Supreme Court investigation.
Central actors in the plot include Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz, who alleged that long-time friend and former Pakistan Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani asked him to deliver a confidential memo asking for US assistance. The memo is alleged to have been drafted by Haqqani at the behest of President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari. The memo was delivered to Mike Mullen through the then National Security Advisor James L. Jones.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan has opened a broader inquiry into the origins, credibility and purpose of the memo. On 19 April 2012, a petition was submitted in the Supreme Court to arrest former Pakistan Ambassador to US Husain Haqqani through Interpol for his refusal to return to Pakistan. On 12 June, the supreme court commission released its findings and found that after testimony by all parties and verifying the forensic results of Ijaz’s BlackBerry conversations with Haqqani, it was “incontrovertibly established” that Husain Haqqani had written the memo and was being called back to Pakistan to face likely charges of treason.
Recently, the Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Saqib Nisar has directed the secretaries of the foreign and interior ministries to appear before the apex court in the Memogate case on Wednesday. During the hearing, CJ Nisar summoned Additional Attorney General Rana Waqar to ask when the government will arrest and bring back Haqqani from the US. The chief justice observed that the court is dissatisfied with the progress in the case so far, terming it a mere eyewash.
The civilian government’s representatives at the meeting gave warning that Pakistan could face international isolation if the security establishment did not take the recommended course of action and what followed suit was a public uproar.
Pakistani politicians have turned the scandal into a major political issue, accusing Ambassador Haqqani, President Zardari, and others in Pakistani government of compromising Pakistan’s sovereignty and conspiring against the Armed Forces of Pakistan.
In a rally at Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore on 30 October 2011, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman Imran Khan accused Haqqani of involvement in the Mullen memo. At a major political rally, Nawaz Sharif, demanded an “urgent” inquiry into the matter. He also threatened to petition the Supreme Court of Pakistan, and resign from the National Assembly if the Zardari government did not satisfactorily investigate the matter.
Many experts at that time asserted that Nawaz was trying to stall the PTI’s popularity at that time as well as trying to retain his pro establishment right wing supporters. However, while he won the 2013 elections, he had to fight an uphill task against a formidable opposition leader: Imran Khan. During this time, he under the influence of his daughter Maryam tried to chart an anti-establishment course in order to grab more power like the way he had accused the PPP.
Nawaz himself was hit by an anti-military conspiracy in the form of “Dawn Leaks”. The news story, highlighting alleged confrontation between the civilian government and the military at a meeting in October 2016, published by Dawn newspaper last year which erupted in the form of a storm in national politics and shortly it transformed into a news leak scandal before becoming a mainstream media fodder.
CJ Nisar summoned Additional Attorney General Rana Waqar to ask when the government will arrest and bring back Haqqani from the US. The chief justice observed that the court is dissatisfied with the progress in the case so far, terming it a mere eyewash.
It all started when the Dawn journalist Cyril Almeida “broke confidential minutes” of a meeting among the government and military officials on ‘national action plan’ in which the civilians reportedly apprised the military of mounting international pressure of more action against armed groups.
The civilian government’s representatives at the meeting gave warning that Pakistan could face international isolation if the security establishment did not take the recommended course of action and what followed suit was a public uproar. The Office of the Prime Minister on October 7 strongly denied the content of the news calling it fabricated. According to reports, it was the PML(N) media cell working under Maryum who crafted the fake news story to demean and degrade the Pakistani institutions.
In the end, both the Memogate and the Dawn Leaks scandal show the sorry state of civil leaders in Pakistan. Civilian leadership has been no less power hungry and ruthless than the military leaders they apparently condemn. The history of Pakistan civil leadership has been marked with anti-state conspiracies such as the Agartala Conspiracy case, PPP’s attempt to woo India in Zia era as well as Nawaz Sharif’s attempt in 1999 to turn into “Amir ul Momineen”. Democracy in Pakistan, while a worthy idealistic cause, is often under threat by power hungry politicians.