Pakistan’s Supreme Court barred the nation’s former ambassador to the U.S. from leaving the country as it investigates claims he sought U.S. help in heading off a feared military coup earlier this year.
Petitioners headed by opposition leader Nawaz Sharif approached the top court after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Nov. 22 ordered Husain Haqqani to resign as envoy before any investigation to prove wrongdoing. Analysts in Washington and Islamabad said his dismissal was a concession by civilian leaders to quell the military’s fury over the ensuing scandal.
“The court has also asked the president and the army chief to submit their replies on the case within 15 days,” Khawaja Asif, one of the petitioners and a lawmaker from the main opposition party led by Sharif, said in comments broadcast live by television networks.
Haqqani’s ouster weakened the civilian government of Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari in its relationship with Pakistan’s politically powerful military, according to analysts such as former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlin.
Extended legal turmoil around Haqqani may further hurt Zardari’s political position because of the men’s close ties. Haqqani has served as a Zardari adviser and in the 1990s as spokesman to his wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Also, Haqqani’s wife, Farahnaz Ispahani, is a spokeswoman for Zardari.
A Pakistani-American businessman, Mansoor Ijaz, has alleged he helped Haqqani deliver a message from Zardari to the then-chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen. Haqqani denies the allegations.
The memo, which Mullen’s spokesman said the chairman ignored because he gave it no credence, sought American pressure to prevent Pakistan’s army from seizing power after the U.S. conducted the raid that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden without informing Pakistan, humiliating the security establishment.
Ijaz wrote an opinion piece in the Financial Times last month alleging that in the memo the civilian government said it would replace Pakistani military and intelligence officials with officers compliant with U.S. demands to sever the military’s ties with the Taliban and other Islamic militant groups.
Pakistan’s military has ruled the country for half of the nation’s 64-year history. It remains the country’s most powerful institution, retaining control over national security matters more than three years after transferring power to an elected government.