Ambassador Haqqani Quits

November 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Pakistan’s envoy to U.S. quits in coup memo controversy

By Chris Allbritton

Husain_Haqqani
Husain Haqqani

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States resigned on Tuesday, days after a Pakistani-American businessman said the envoy was behind a controversial memo that accused the Pakistani military of plotting a coup in May.

Envoy Husain Haqqani said in a Twitter message that he had sent his resignation to the prime minister. State television said his resignation had been accepted.

“I have much to contribute to building a new Pakistan free of bigotry & intolerance,” Haqqani said on Twitter. “Will focus energies on that.”

Haqqani became entangled in controversy after the appearance of a column in the Financial Times on Oct 10.

In the column, businessman Mansoor Ijaz said a senior Pakistani diplomat had asked that a memo be delivered to the Pentagon with a plea for U.S. help to stave off a military coup in the days after the May 2 U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Ijaz later identified the diplomat as Haqqani.

No evidence has emerged that the military was plotting a coup and Haqqani denies involvement in the memo.

“I still maintain that I did not conceive, write or distribute the memo,” Haqqani told Reuters shortly after he resigned. “This is not about the memo,” he continued. “This is about bigger things.”

He declined to comment further.

Haqqani’s resignation follows a meeting with Pakistan President Asif Zardari, the nation’s powerful army chief General Ashfaq Kayani and its intelligence head Lieutenant-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha.
A spokesman for the prime minister’s office said Haqqani was asked to resign and there would be an investigation into the memo.

Haqqani is close to Zardari but estranged from Pakistan’s military.

Tensions between Pakistan’s civilian government and military have bedeviled the nuclear-armed South Asian country for almost its entire existence, with the military ruling the country for more than half of its 64-year history in a series of coups.

Haqqani’s resignation was seen by many analysts as further weakening the civilian government, which is already beset by allegations of corruption and incompetence.

“They (the military) may expect much more from the government, much more beyond the resignation of Husain Haqqani, because they see that everybody perceived to be involved in this affair will be seen as anti-military and by implication anti-state,” said Imtiaz Gul, a security analyst in Islamabad.

Haqqani’s successor might include a diplomat with a less complicated relationship with the military, perhaps Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir or Pakistan’s envoy to the United Nations, Hussain Haroon.

“Whether Pakistan’s people or its military will be represented in DC will become evident when Husain Haqqani’s replacement is announced,” Ali Dayan Hasan, representative for Human Rights Watch in Pakistan, said on Twitter.

It is unclear how far beyond Haqqani “memogate,” as it is called in the Pakistani press, goes.

Ijaz initially said that Haqqani was acting under the authority of Zardari, which has opened up the president to public criticism in Pakistan that he was plotting against his own military.
But Ijaz retreated from that claim and later said he wasn’t sure how involved Zardari was in the memo controversy.

“I don’t know if Haqqani had a blanket power of attorney with Zardari, whether he ever discussed this with Zardari or whether he was acting on his own,” Ijaz told Reuters on Nov 18.
Mark Siegel, a lobbyist who represents the Pakistani government in Washington, said Zardari called him when the Financial Times story appeared, asking his law firm to initiate libel proceedings against the paper and against Ijaz.

Siegel advised Zardari against filing a case because he judged it difficult for a public figure to win a libel case in a U.S. court.

“He was irate and said the memo was a total fabrication,” Siegel said. Siegel, who has known Zardari for 25 years, said he was absolutely certain that Zardari had known nothing about the memo.

(Additional reporting by Zeeshan Haider, Qasim Nauman and Augustine Anthony in Islamabad and Missy Ryan in Washington; Editing by Peter Graff)

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12 Officers Charged, Turkey Coup Plot

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Daren Butler

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Twelve senior Turkish military officers were charged on Wednesday over an alleged plot to topple a government that secularist hardliners fear is pursuing a hidden Islamist agenda.

Turkey’s top military commanders, who have seen the army’s role as ultimate guardian of secularism eroded under European Union-backed reforms, held an emergency meeting late on Tuesday and warned in a statement of a “serious situation.”

With tensions hitting investors’ confidence and feeding speculation that elections due next year could be brought forward, Prime Minster Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul will meet Turkey’s top military commander on Thursday, a government source said.

Turkish stocks closed down 3.4 percent and the lira weakened to a seven-month low against the dollar, while bond yields rose.

Adding to uncertainty, Turkey’s chief prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya said he was looking into statements made by deputies from the ruling AK Party, but had not reached the stage of opening a formal investigation against the party.

Yalcinkaya tried to have the party banned for anti-secular activities in 2008. Speculation that he could try again has prompted talk that the government could call a snap election.

The AK Party, first elected in 2002 in a landslide victory over older, established parties blighted by corruption and accusations of misrule, is also embroiled in a dispute with the judiciary — another pillar of the orthodox establishment.

The military has ousted four governments of various political hues since 1960, although the army says the days of coups are now over.

While the chances of another coup are seen as remote, anxiety is growing over what the generals might do next and what strains the situation might put on the armed forces’ leadership.

Turkey’s NATO allies, particularly the United States, want the overwhelmingly Muslim nation to mature as a democracy.

Its prospects of entering the EU depend partly on ending the special status that made the arrest of military personnel, still less a former force commander, by civilian authorities inconceivable until recently.

Tensions were triggered by an unprecedented police swoop on Monday that detained around 50 serving and retired officers.

A court late on Wednesday ordered five officers, four of them retired and including former Rear Admiral Feyyaz Ogutcu, to be sent to jail pending trial. Another two were released.

The most senior detainees, retired Air Force Commander Ibrahim Firtina and ex-navy chief Ozden Ornek, are being held at police headquarters in Istanbul and are expected to be brought to the court for questioning on Thursday.

The other seven officers charged in the early hours of Wednesday consisted of four admirals, two retired and two serving, a retired brigadier-general and two retired colonels.

Pending a formal indictment, the detainees are accused of belonging to a terrorist group and of attempting to overthrow the government by force.

Six officers were released from custody on Tuesday after questioning. It was unclear if they would face charges.

The army leadership has said previously that probes into a series of alleged coup plots is hurting morale in the ranks.

In a characteristically veiled and brief statement on its web site on Tuesday, the General Staff said its top commanders had met to “assess the serious situation that has arisen.”

“What do you mean? Are you going to carry out a coup?” said a headline in Taraf, a low-circulation newspaper that has broken several stories of alleged coup plots.

The current investigation into the so-called “Sledgehammer” plan, allegedly drawn up in 2003, was triggered by a report in Taraf last month. The military has said the plan was just a scenario drawn up for an army seminar.

Retired military officers are among around 200 people indicted over separate plots by a far-right group known as Ergenekon. Critics say that trial is being used to target political opponents, an accusation the government rejects.

(Additional reporting by Pinar Aydinli, Zerin Elci and Ibon Villelabeitia in Ankara, Alexandra Hudson and Thomas Grove in Istanbul; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Ralph Boulton and David Stamp)

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