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The memo scandal

The issue of the secret memo that Pakistani-American businessman Mansur
Ijaz claimed to have delivered to the US’ former Joint Chiefs of Staff
Chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen, on behalf of Ambassador Hussain Haqqani
has taken a new turn with the scandal’s central figure, Mike Mullen’s
latest remarks.

Ijaz, it may be recalled, had claimed in an
article that appeared in the highly respected British paper, Financial
Times, last month that he was directed by a senior Pakistani official
close to the government to deliver a memo to the admiral in the wake of
the May 2nd US raid in Abbottabad, in which President Zardari
purportedly had offered to replace the military leadership, and cut ties
to militant groups.

The memo allegedly contains some lethal material regarding even more sensitive security issues, including nuclear safety.

The
government had initially brushed aside the memo as a figment of
imagination of a publicity-hungry individual, with poor credibility and
hence unworthy of serious attention.

Admiral Mullen himself had said he had never met Ijaz, and had no recollection of the memo.

But given the nature of the issues involved, the memo controversy refused to die down.

Mullen has now come back with the dramatic disclosure that the memo, indeed, did exist.

His
spokesman, John Kirby, issued a statement explaining that after the FT
article appeared, Mullen felt incumbent upon himself to check his
memory.

And that “he had reached out to others who he believed
might have had knowledge of such a memo, and one of them was able to
produce a copy of it.” Having already sensed the gravity of the
developing situation, a day earlier Prime Minister Gilani had told the
National Assembly that Haqqani was being summoned to Islamabad to answer
for what had happened.

Haqqani earlier sent a letter to the President questioning Ijaz’s claims.

He
has also been arguing that he did not need any intermediary since he
had good relations with the Admiral who, he said, had no power to bring
about any change in the Pakistani military.

Yet the fact remains
that there exists an incriminating document pertaining to extremely
sensitive national security issues that begs the questions, who wrote
the memo, and on whose behalf? As things stand, responding to various
points of order from the Opposition benches on Friday, Gilani reiterated
his stance that he had summoned the ambassador, adding “Let us wait for
the Ambassador’s explanation.” Haqqani, of course, is going to deny any
involvement, and repeat his offer to resign.

But the matter will not end with his resignation.

The government also owes a credible explanation to the public.

A high-level, transparent investigation is in order.

Doing so will be in the government’s own interest.

Otherwise the memo will serve as grist for the rumour mills, causing unnecessary harm to the body politic.

It is in Haqqani’s interest, too, to face a formal inquiry.

If he did not write the memo on his own, or on somebody else’s behalf, as is being alleged, he must come clean.

It is possible that he has been framed.

We hope the government will provide satisfactory answers to the people, and end the controversy once and for all.

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