Memogate and the state of the State


According to Mansoor Ijaz, he got the unsigned memo delivered to Adm Mike Mullen as asked for by Ambassador Husain Haqqani on behalf of President Asif Ali Zardari. To support his assertion, Mr Ijaz provided evidence to DG ISI Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha. On that basis, the COAS was able to force the PM to sack Mr Haqqani. The president, who personifies the unity of the Republic, was humiliated by being made to come down from his office to attend the meeting on the subject at the Prime Minister House on Nov 22. That Gen Kayani and Gen Pasha were able to get the ambassador punished and the president humiliated, and that the ambassador did not sue the accuser for libel, clearly showed that everyone at that meeting was convinced that the accuser was telling the truth.

The memo sought Washington’s “direct intervention in conveying a strong, urgent and direct message to Gen Kayani that delivers Washington’s demand for Gen Pasha to end their brinkmanship, aimed at bringing down the civilian apparatus.” That was the only scandalous part of the memo. The rest of the note dealt with policy decisions that the government intended to take in return, which if taken, would have been beneficial for both, the US and Pakistan.

The US administration knows how to go about its business without being bothered by such a silly note. So why did President Zardari succumb to this foolishness? The answer lies in the events of the last May, the month when the memo was sent. After the killing of Osama bin Laden, the army and ISI came in for severe criticism from the public.

To ensure that the government toed their line, the generals must have resorted to brinkmanship: threatening a coup without intending to carry it out, thereby panicking the head of state. Panic makes people behave irrationally.

Before the elections of 2008, the army was the de facto ruler of the country. It was thought that the elections would usher in democracy, but that proved to be only half true. The elected administration led by PPP allowed the army to become partner in governance.

Since then, sparks have continued to fly from this unstable relationship; Memogate was just a brighter shower of sparks. The army continues to dictate defence and foreign policy. It also continues to command Frontier Corps and Rangers though these paramilitary forces work for the interior ministry. It, thus, controls internal security in troubled regions like Balochistan etc. ISI reports to the COAS, whereas according to the nature of its duties, it should report to the PM. Moreover, all the three services own and operate commercial enterprises.

Article 245 (1) of the Constitution defines the role of the military as under: “the Armed Forces shall, under directions of the Federal Government, defend Pakistan against external aggression or threat of war, and subject to law, act in aid of civil power when called upon to do so.” Clearly, the functions that the military is performing as mentioned in the above paragraph, are beyond the bounds set for it by the Basic Law. The country is, therefore, being run as a quasi-democracy, and the ramifications have been as disastrous as when dictatorship ruled; as shown below.

Al Qaeda, Haqqani network, and Pakistani Taliban including TTP, occupy about forty percent of FATA, which is about 16,000 sq miles. Thousands of people are being killed each year all over the country by suicide bombings and IED explosions. Kidnappings for ransom, bank robberies and extortions, which finance terrorism to a considerable extent, are rife. Small businesses and schools in FATA have been devastated. In just one year (2010-11) loss to the national economy on account of terrorism, amounted to Rs 1.5 trillion according to the Economic Survey of Pakistan. The cause of this death and destruction lies in that part of FATA which is under control of the deadly groups named above, led by Al-Qaeda. Yet the army is not moving forward to recapture that part of our homeland.

In Balochistan, the need is to find a political solution. But the internal security of the province is being handled by the army which is going for a military solution. Consequently, lawlessness rules, and belief in Pakistani nationhood is fast evaporating from the Baloch.

To set things right, the first and foremost requirement is to put governance on the constitutional path. Dictation should not be taken from the armed forces in any manner. Organisations which deal with internal security like Frontier Corps, Rangers and ISI should be restructured so that they are not controlled by the army.

In the eighties, the large communications ministry which administered PIA, CAA, postal, telecommunications etc, was merged into the large defence ministry making the amalgamated super-department too unwieldy for proper ministerial supervision. It should be bifurcated so that the defence minister may be able to concentrate on defence.

Memogate was merely the tip of the iceberg. The part underneath represents those extra-constitutional functions that the military has been allowed to perform by the PPP-led coalition. Only when the government, the present one or the next, or still the next, wakes up and thaws the iceberg (with apologies to the activists against global warming), will we see the equivalent of the Arab Spring flowering in Pakistan – and an end to Memogates.


  1. Please Government, do something to stop the usage of improvised explosive devices by the terrorists.

Comments are closed.