By Tom Hussain
The war of words between the Pakistani prime minister and army chief follows claims by an American businessman, Mansoor Ijaz, that Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington, Hussain Haqqani, had in May asked him to seek White House support against a planned military coup.
Ijaz said he believed Haqqani had acted at the behest of the Pakistani president. In support of his claims, Ijaz has presented a memo, given by him to the then U.S. national security adviser, Gen. James Jones, who forwarded it to Adm. Mike Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Ijaz has also produced transcripts of Blackberry Messenger conversations, allegedly between him and Haqqani, that apparently implicated Zardari. Haqqani vehemently denies the allegations, which are being examined by Pakistan’s fiercely independent Supreme Court. The Pakistani government had dismissed the allegations but had nonetheless asked Haqqani to resign as ambassador to facilitate a nonpartisan parliamentary commission. The commission was pre-empted by Sharif, the Pakistani opposition leader, who petitioned the Supreme Court to investigate the matter. The court this week summoned sworn statements from the president, the government, the army chief and the director of ISI. Responding to a request by Haqqani’s lawyers, Jones sent a sworn statement saying he believed Ijaz had written the controversial memo and that Haqqani had nothing to do with it. The government on Thursday told the court that the matter was political and outside its jurisdiction. Gilani was infuriated when the army chief and ISI director bypassed the government to submit statements to the Supreme Court asserting that they believed Ijaz’s claims to be true. The military position portrayed the government as surrendering sovereignty to Washington, sparking accusations of treason against the Pakistani president. Referring to the Supreme Court hearing of the allegations, Kayani on Friday asserted: “Issues of national security need to be considered on merit alone … irrespective of all other considerations, there can be no compromise on national security.” Pakistan’s chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, on Friday declared that the judiciary’s independence had averted a military coup — which would have been the fifth in the country’s 64-year history. (Hussain is a McClatchy special correspondent.)