Memo circus: The winners and losers!
Air Commodore ® Khalid Iqbal


Sporadic fireworks have always been a regular part of Pak-US relations. Successive governments have been managing the bilateral relationship despite huge gap between the state policy and public opinion. Ironically, some facets of these relations which our successive governments thought were mutually beneficial, at times, drew a sharp public reaction.

Strategic divergence between Pakistan and America which once again came to fore with Raymond Davis saga continues to radiate powerful fissures. Abbottabad attack on May 2 made serious and lasting dent in the relationship. Earlier on, Pakistan’s unilateral relaxing of visa policy for Americans provided a chance for the Blackwater category units to acquire the capability of clandestine operations in Pakistan which contributed in the later events. On domestic side, difference of opinion between the military and political leadership on issues like drone attacks, infamous Kerry-Lugar-Burman Act and Abbottabad attack, is well known. It is interesting that point of view of military leadership on these issues has been closer to the grand public standing. Abbottabad incident eroded the public image of the military leadership in terms of its ability to provide security. However, gradually, people came to understand that even under highest degree of readiness, such cowardly sneaking attacks stand a fair degree of chance to succeed. Reaction of political and military leadership on Abbottabad attack failed to project a unified external façade. Moreover, earlier leaders of the current ruling party have a track record of approaching super powers in a similar bizarre manner for longevity of their tenure. These voids provided space for Memo-gate like fiasco to take roots. It is interesting to see who could emerge as losers and winners from the issue. Generally, three theories are being floated. Firstly, it is a sting operation by Army/ISI to discredit the political leadership and create a justification for toppling the civilian leadership, with Ambassador Haqqani’s head a collateral advantage. Secondly, it is a CIA sting operation to create cleavage between the political and military leadership coupled with public reaction to reinforce the insecurity of Pakistan’s nuclear assets. And thirdly, that it happened under the authority of the highest political office in Islamabad. Let’s take a look at these three prepositions. Ample reasons and justifications are available to Army if it wishes to takeover; additional gimmicks of the sort are not required. Earlier, military has been taking over on much smaller pretext than what the pre-Memo environment offered. In the post-Abbottabad attack period, Pakistan’s political leadership has been striving hard to create essential distance between America and Pakistan. Frequent highest level contacts with Iran, Afghanistan, Russia and other regional countries were certainly not to the liking of Americans. America might have felt the necessity to clip the freedom of manoeuvre of Pakistan’s political leadership through a scandalous event. This could accrue side benefits of creating misunderstanding between the political and military components of national leadership besides reinforcing the state of helplessness amongst the public. It could also provoke a military takeover; hence provisions for KLB Act could be invoked to cut off Pakistan’s economic aid. Now as far as Pakistani government is concerned, after sacking Ambassador Haqqani, it has pushed the matter under the carpet. Moving of the matter to the apex court through political channel would thoroughly politicize it; whereby the real culprit may escape the justice. Apex court’s verdict on the subject would take quite some time; and government’s track record in the context of implementing such decisions is not quite promising. In the meanwhile, CIA could have carried out couple of new incidents to embarrass the military or political leadership of Pakistan. Such an eventuality would overshadow the memo issue and it will rest in peace alongside other previous events of our national shame.At this point and time, leakage of the contents and sequence of the memo only suited the American interests. They had had enough of Haqqani, so his casualty is of no consequence. Domestically, Haqqani’s views expressed in his book “Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military” do create a strong perception that he could easily fall prey to such ambitious temptations; and take the initiative without prior clearance. One doubts if the ex-diplomat would ever be interrogated thoroughly. His mercurial personality together with a tendency of frequently busting this job specifications had earned him the reputation of being an American ambassador to Pakistan, based in Washington. More so is the mysterious conduct of Mansoor Ijaz’s; he needs thorough grilling and if possible he should stand a trial in Pakistan. According to Bruce Riedal, a former CIA officer, Mansoor Ijaz has a “long record of fabricating false information and self-promotion”. In all probability the memo was put together by Mansoor Ijaz, however it would be premature to rule out the fine tuning of the text by Haqqani. Admiral Mullen’s dilly dally conduct also fell well short of his four star stature.Abbottabad attack was a moment of Pakistani leadership’s humiliation; more so of the military component. At that time the political dispensation might have thought of availing the opportunity to clip the wings of military leadership, including the ISI. It suited the Americans, so they joyfully provided their shoulder. However, having failed in inflicting the intended damage, Americans chose to use the double edged sword to their advantage.Plan was executed by the Americans with a systemic incorporation of their media as well. In his op-ed piece, ‘A new Pakistan policy: Containment’, carried by ‘International Herald Tribune’, on 17th October, Bruce Riedel opined that, “America needs a new policy for dealing with Pakistan. First, we must recognise that the two countries’ strategic interests are in conflict, not in harmony, and will remain that way as long as Pakistan’s army controls the strategic policies… the generals who run Pakistan think time is on their side – that NATO is doomed to give up in Afghanistan….We must contain the Pakistan Army’s ambition until civilian rule returns and Pakistanis set a new direction for their foreign policy”. Wayne Madsen, reported that “Pakistan is next on the target list of nations that will soon be feeling the military muscle of the United States…unlike other Muslim nations that have been subjected to the US military intervention, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, and Libya, Pakistan’s ultimate prize for the West is its nuclear weapons arsenal…The plans have been coordinated between the CIA, India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Israel’s Mossad.”Unfortunately, the memo saga reinforces the oft forgotten lesson that unless the politicians put their house in order, concomitantly strengthen all state institutions alongside evolving a system of checks and balances, effective civilian control over the military may not graduate beyond a flight of fancy. And the voids would always be exploited by domestic, regional and extra-regional actors and characters.It is unfortunate that select national media is joining hands with foreign veritable media arms of multiple origin with multiple purposes to tarnish own institutions like Army and the ISI. Interestingly, both Army and the ISI are robust institutions ready to face the flake for everything and anything going wrong around the world; quickly shudder their shoulders, and continue their forward march!