The memo scourge

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A reality one moment, gone the next

The memo issue has been debated extensively and exhaustively. The reason it should be debated further is because, based on what has transpired so far, it reflects abysmally on the character and conduct of individuals and institutions alike. It is also symptomatic of the moral bankruptcy that has penetrated various echelons of governance in the country.

Let’s face it: the former ambassador to the US could not have been asked to resign if the memo was just another ‘piece of paper’. The fact that one of the most potent members of the president’s close cabinet was summoned and asked to quit showed that the allegations had incriminating substance. When the government’s vulnerability showed through and the opposition saw an opportunity to nail it, the matter was taken to the Supreme Court making the COAS and the DG ISI respondents in the matter. The apex court asked all parties including the federation, the COAS and the DG ISI to submit their statements which was duly done. While the government termed the memo a conspiracy and a mere piece of paper asking the court to drop it, the army and the intelligence chiefs termed it a danger to national security and took the opposite view – that of asking the court to probe it thoroughly and confront its perpetrators. After the initial hearing, the court constituted a three-member commission for investigating the matter further and submitting its recommendations.

The commission asked to respondents to re-submit their statements. Both parties stuck to their respective contrasting positions which were transmitted to the commission through signed affidavits. Sensing grave danger to its survival, the government sprang into action and its principal players started issuing statements to block the path of the key witness in the case, Mansoor Ijaz, from coming to Pakistan. There were threats of registering a treason case against him and putting his name on the ECL by the interior minister while the prime minister said that he was no viceroy and could not be guaranteed any special security arrangements. In the meanwhile, the government-appointed parliamentary commission also issued summons for Mansoor to appear before it.

The government launched a frontal attack on other state institutions, most notably the heads of the army and the ISI, alleging them for running ‘a state within a state’ and, with reference to the affidavits, for doing ‘unconstitutional’ things. After a sequence of meetings involving various key players in the government, indications of a palpable change started filtering through. The party head who had taken the matter to the Supreme Court dashed off to London. There were reports of US pressure on Mansoor Ijaz for not travelling to Pakistan. The government unleashed a spate of propaganda that there were conspiracies afoot to send it packing. The president, in an interview with a private channel, stated categorically that he would accept the decision of the parliamentary commission only implying that he did not attach any importance to what the SC-appointed commission would do.

Amidst a flurry of activity, the inevitable happened and, citing threats to his security, Mansoor refused to travel to Pakistan and asked the commission to record his statement in London or Zurich. With the matter having cooled off, the commission is still debating whether to record Mansoor’s statement at a place outside Pakistan or to finalise its findings sans the statement of the most critical witness – an ambivalence that does not stand to reason given the circumstances and the severity of the allegations contained in the plea moved before the Supreme Court.

In the wake of the allegations contained in the memo, the government was understandably shaken to its roots. Equally vehement were the stands taken by the leadership of the political party in taking the matter to the apex court and the heads of the army and the premier intelligence agency of the country in pinpointing the serious possible repercussions of the conspiracy. What, then, happened in the intervening period so as to dilute the respective stands? Is it simply a matter of agreeing to co-exist, or are there more sinister motives to the move?

The environment is replete with multiple conspiracy theories, but there is no way one can fully comprehend the stark shift in the manner the memo issue was unveiled, taken to the highest judicial forum and then, through a perceptibly conscious effort, allowed to die off. Was there too much to swallow by way of a threat to national security involving some key players of the government and the security establishment that may have led to a decision not to rake it any further? Did the non-appearance of the key witness before the commission lead to ‘killing’ the case without a transparent enquiry ever having been conducted? Should this be perceived as another reprieve for an incessantly-errant government and a not-so-eager security establishment to pursue the matter that would inevitably have created serious ripples? Were the affidavits submitted by the army and the security agency chiefs exaggerated versions of a perceived threat that, not fully supported by hard evidence, was allowed to bury itself? If that be so, wouldn’t it be fair to rehabilitate the former ambassador to the US to his position, or is it that his scalp was the only target of the drama that was enacted?

The matter may be dead for those who, initially, appeared most interested in pursuing it, but it is not for those multitudes who are genuinely interested in this country and whose future is linked with its security and progress. Will one ever discover the hands behind this terrible scourge that was unleashed on this country? That be so or not, the matter would not be forgotten as easily as is being perceived – as, indeed, it should not be!

The writer is a political analyst and a member of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. He can be reached at [email protected]