The ‘Memogate’ Scandal and Pakistan-US Relations


The US-sponsored government in Islamabad made a futile attempt to rein in the military and intelligence

by Zaki Khalid

Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari ordered his associate Husain Haqqani in Washington to request then Admiral Mike Mullen to make way for removing Pakistan’s Army Chief General Kayani and ISI Chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha.

It is well understood that geopolitical relations between Pakistan and the US suffer repeated climb-falls after a new clash of interests between the militaries of both respective countries emerges on the forefront. Politics depends on diplomacy and vying for maintenance of relations in the worst of circumstances imaginable, whereas military interests are based purely on strategic motives and security. When military relations between the top echelons are at stake, politics becomes worthless; even the most well-conceived back-channel diplomacy fails to resolve the mutual differences that develop when both parties expose their distrust to the media at large.

Such was the case between Rawalpindi and Washington right after the May 2 incident at Abbottabad in which Navy SEALs were sent on a suicide mission by the Pentagon apparently to “get rid of the OBL menace” but in reality, that well-conceived hoax which corporate media around the world readily projected as the truth led to tectonic shifts in Pakistan’s domestic apparatus. The people of Pakistan, like all gullible television viewers elsewhere, readily believed the official account of the event and diverted all their anger towards their Army and intelligence agency, the ISI. There was an uproar against the US for breaching the territorial sanctity of Pakistan. Taking full advantage of this scenario, the civilian setup in Pakistan (which is itself sponsored by Washington as always) engaged in point-scoring whereby the COAS General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani and ISI Chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha were called in to brief the National Assembly on why they “failed” to counter the breach of sovereignty from the Western border. It is well-known that Pakistan’s Army is India-centric, as has been accepted by General Kayani. On the other hand, troops are also busy engaging foreign and local militants in the north’s tribal belt. An attack from Afghanistan by air was unimaginable for many but in military circles; this probability can never be rounded to zero. They have to remain vigilant and alert at all costs.

My communication with an intelligence official here in Pakistan, a few hours after the Abbottabad raid, was very bewildering. I was told that “more than a dozen” US Navy SEALs had been killed when their helicopter was manually shot down in the alleged compound; that their burnt bodies were spread around. When I asked how this could be possible since Obama had been observing the operation in The Situation Room, the official gave a grin and said, “So you believe Obama to be credible?” The communication ended. I was in my room all night trying to join the bits and pieces together, after which a detailed series of reports were published on my websitefollowed by an interview on this issue to TVN Chile. With time, the issue gradually phased-out like all others. The civilian government was surging upwards in popularity and the Pakistan military was bearing the brunt of all criticism. A step forward towards democracy for some in Pakistan, no one at the time knew what was going on behind-the-scenes.

On October 10, Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz came out with a piece in the Financial Times in which he revealed:

Early on May 9, a week after US Special Forces stormed the hideout of Osama bin Laden and killed him, a senior Pakistani diplomat telephoned me with an urgent request. Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s president, needed to communicate a message to White House national security officials that would bypass Pakistan’s military and intelligence channels. The embarrassment of bin Laden being found on Pakistani soil had humiliated Mr Zardari’s weak civilian government to such an extent that the president feared a military takeover was imminent. He needed an American fist on his army chief’s desk to end any misguided notions of a coup – and fast.

There was a hullabaloo within the Pakistani media: “Who could it be? Did the President really send a memo?”On various talk shows, Ministers of the Pakistan government kept defending Asif Ali Zardari by outrightly denying the existence of any such memo. One minister even went so far as to declare Ijaz as “a dastardly MOSSAD agent“. Official statements were issued simultaneously alleging that there was a planned international conspiracy against the democratic civilian government. Without getting into the nitty gritty of what politicians of the country had to say on this, I will share the response by Pakistan’s military and intelligence so far.

Photo: Anjum Naveed/AP

An official of the Pakistan Army told me today that unlike General (R) Pervez Musharraf who subjected the country to a dragging dictatorship, the current Army Chief General Kayani has an exceptional level of tolerance and is known for his foresightedness. Infact, he grinned to add, “He is one of a kind, very silent. A few puffs of Marlboro and he’s out with a new effective counter-strategy”. Unfortunately for Pakistan, the track record has shown that although military takeovers have caused damage to the country’s infrastructure, the civilian ones have comparatively caused even more losses.

The official with whom I was talking today made it clear that General Kayani will not call the 111 Brigade to impose a reactionary martial-law. This is exactly what would benefit the US administration if it happens. The only case something similar takes place is if the Supreme Court invokes the Army’s help in suspending this government to pave way for an interim government which will then hold general elections and most importantly, which will safeguard the interests and stability of the country on political and diplomatic grounds. After the Abbottabad hoax, Pakistan’s powerful ISI Chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha was asked to brief the parliament on alleged “failures” to notice the breach of sovereignty by US SEALs. Pakistan’s military establishment had bore the brunt of nationwide criticism after America’s corporate media had been successful in portraying the alleged OBL killing in Abbottabad as a turning point in the War of Terror waged by the US military-industrial complex. As media monitors observed even then, Pakistan’s ISPR remained eerily silent on the whole incident. General Kayani was the Director of the ISI before taking charge as the Army Chief and is well-versed in the realpolitik of the South and Central Asian region. Imposing a dictatorship means spiraling the nation down the same drain where Musharraf took it. This is a move which will not be done, especially keeping the developments in Afghanistan in mind. He knows his game well for both Kayani and Pasha have interacted in peak years with American military; Pasha was the Director General of Military Operations during the Musharraf era.

An overview of the memo’s content

The memo notes:

Request your direct intervention in conveying a strong, urgent and direct message to Gen Kayani that delivers Washington’s demand for him and Gen Pasha to end their brinkmanship aimed at bringing down the civilian apparatus – that this is a 1971 moment in Pakistan’s history. Should you be willing to do so, Washington’s political/military backing would result in a revamp of the civilian government that, while weak at the top echelon in terms of strategic direction and implementation (even though mandated by domestic political forces), in a wholesale manner replaces the national security adviser and other national security officials with trusted advisers that include ex-military and civilian leaders favorably viewed by Washington, each of whom have long and historical ties to the US military, political and intelligence communities. Names will be provided to you in a face-to-face meeting with the person delivering this message. (emphasis mine)

The names of these prospective candidates who have “long and historical ties to the US military, political and intelligence communities” were disclosed by The News in an article titledMansoor says Mullen wanted Zardari’s clearance of memo“:

05/09/2011 18:59 MI: My friend in DC simply said too many people have been burned in the past two years on the US side and he wanted to insure that on such a sensitive subject, the data and proposal are clear. This is you to me, me to him. He trusts me enough to know I won’t bring it forward unless it has top level approval. He does not need it with any email addresses etc. He will scrub that in any event. If you want names to be mentioned, yours, JK, MD, etc, I will do that in person. So get whatever message you want delivered back to me and I’ll insure it gets in MM’s hands. Best. M (emphasis mine)

In the message, JK = Gen. (R) Jahangir Karamat (former Pakistan Army Chief of Staff) and MD = Gen. (R) Mahmud Durrani who was sacked previously for going against state security policies. This paragraph makes it clear that: “..the new national security team is prepared, with full backing of the civilian apparatus” included Husain Haqqani, Jahangir Karamat and Mahmud Durrani as viable candidates who had the full support of both Pakistan’s present civilian government and the White House. Pentagon and Langley.

The next paragraph reads:

A unique window of opportunity exists for the civilians to gain the upper hand over army and intelligence directorates due to their complicity in the UBL matter. (emphasis mine)

The above statement from the memo (authored on May 9) reveals the hypocrisy of Pakistan’s civilian leadership. The BBC reported on the same day:

There have been suspicions that someone in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency, which has a long history of contacts with militant groups, may have known where Bin Laden was hiding.

But Mr Gilani told MPs that the ISI, and the military, had the full support and confidence of the government. (emphasis mine)

Was the public announcement by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani that day on the floor of the parliament true, or was the President’s draft in the covert memo alleging the military’s complicity true? Mullen has recently confirmed receiving the memo. On the one hand, the President of Pakistan writes in his note to Mullen back then that the military is complicit, on the other, the Prime Minister openly defends the military. Hypocrisy has no limits indeed.

The memo is available for all to read, I shall be throwing light on the most notable points that are worth analyzing:

3. The new national security team will implement a policy of either handing over those left in the leadership of Al Qaeda or other affiliated terrorist groups who are still on Pakistani soil, including Ayman Al Zawahiri, Mullah Omar and Sirajuddin Haqqani, or giving US military forces a “green light” to conduct the necessary operations to capture or kill them on Pakistani soil. This “carte blanche” guarantee is not without political risks, but should demonstrate the new group’s commitment to rooting out bad elements on our soil. This commitment has the backing of the top echelon on the civilian side of our house, and we will insure necessary collateral support. (emphasis mine)

This objective makes it clear that the Government of Pakistan, in lust for power, were willing to put Pakistan’s security at stake by officially permitting more US raids into the country. Never in the country’s history has there been a more treasonous government than the present one that is willing to go all bounds covertly against the wishes of its people to please their masters in Washington. What is bizarre is that there is no evidence of Zawahiri being on Pakistani soil just. Mullah Omar of the Afghan Taliban has repeatedly denied his presence in Pakistan and Sirajuddin Haqqani hails from the Haqqani clan which is based mostly in Khost region of Afghanistan. How then can the Government of Pakistan give way for open US entry without credible intelligence? Surely, the ISI has found no evidence of them being here, does this mean all information come to them from Langley’s manufactured intelligence division? (Recalling the planted intelligence by codename ‘Curveball’ which was used as a pre-emptive for attacking Iran). Add to this a Blackberry message by Husain Haqqani to Mansoor Ijaz on 12 May where he states:

MI: Tell me one important thing. Who likes you and who hates you in the US establishment? Who wants you to stay and who wants to — you up?

HH: The debate abt your oped has caused my detractors to put pressure on my boss

HH: In US estab, I can count on Leon and Petraeus

(emphasis mine)

Husain Haqqani makes it evident that then CIA Chief Leon Panetta and NATO/ISAF Head David Petreaus are the people whom he can count on in the US establishment.

4. One of the great fears of the military-intelligence establishment is that with your stealth capabilities to enter and exit Pakistani airspace at will, Pakistan’s nuclear assets are now legitimate targets. The new national security team is prepared, with full backing of the Pakistani government – initially civilian but eventually all three power centers – to develop an acceptable framework of discipline for the nuclear program. This effort was begun under the previous military regime, with acceptable results. We are prepared to reactivate those ideas and build on them in a way that brings Pakistan’s nuclear assets under a more verifiable, transparent regime.

Basically, this means the US would have been given open access to Pakistan’s strategic installations.

5. The new national security team will eliminate Section S of the ISI charged with maintaining relations to the Taliban, Haqqani network, etc. This will dramatically improve relations with Afghanistan.

The ISI’s Section S, like the CIA’s Special Activities Division, is a vital component of the country’s intelligence apparatus whose terms and operations are beyond highly-classified. Vying to terminate this department means there will be a sudden loss to strategic controls and interests in the region, especially in Afghanistan.

The ending reads:

We, who believe in democratic governance and building a much better structural relationship in the region with India AND Afghanistan, seek US assistance to help us pigeon-hole the forces lined up against your interests and ours, including containment of certain elements inside our country that require appropriate re-sets and re-tasking in terms of direction and extent of responsibility after the UBL affair.
We submit this memorandum for your consideration collectively as the members of the new national security team who will be inducted by the President of Pakistan with your support in this undertaking.

(emphasis mine)

With this comes a very questionable message in Mansoor Ijaz’ transcript of messages on 12 May:

MI: You did something you thought was right outside channels because you felt it would be the most effective way to get the job done. I helped you execute. I haven’t thrown you under the bus. But be damn sure I won’t let anyone do that to me

HH: I’ll do what I can to keep it pretty

HH: I haven’t. I won’t.

MI: By the way, I know a lot more than you give me credit for about the circumstances that led to May 1 and your role in all that. Just FYI

This is something new for me. Does this indicate yet another lead that Husain Haqqani had knowledge before-hand of the Abbottabad hoax operation?

The issue here is simple: That the people of Pakistan have a leadership that does not give any worth to the country’s well-being and which is willing to be a great lick-spittle for the US military-industrial complex. In this regard, I would like to state that American citizens are also suffering the same. Our governments have their own vested interests with no regards to what their citizens have to withstand. Crumbling economies in Pakistan, power-outages, increased commodity prices, suicides with each passing day. Similarly in the US, we see the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon and the way in which SEALs in Afghanistan were cleverly killed to shush the truth, army soldiers defecting and exposing the game-plan for which they were being used as tools for meaningless wars.

Pakistan’s military is still silent. As I write this, there isn’t a single press release from the spokesperson of the Armed Forces. Those who have committed treason will indeed be dealt with. The atmosphere in Pakistan is filled with calls on social media by fellow Pakistanis to publicly hang those involved in this memogate scandal. The people have had it with foreign autocracy that guises itself under the cloak of democracy each time there are questions raised against its dubious policies. There are widespread calls for a military takeover to clean the mess once and for all. Time will tell how this mess is wrapped up, there is a certain amount of army involvement in the coming weeks for sure. The upcoming government will be more stringent in bilateral relations with the US.

However, as I have been told again, there will be no martial law.

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