Secret Pakistani-U.S. memo offering overthrow of military leadership revealed

Thursday, November 17, 2011 – 8:45 PM Share

TheCable has obtainedthe document at the center of the “memo-gate“controversy, sent allegedly from the highest echelons of Pakistani’s civilian leadershipto Adm. Michael Mullen in the wakeof the killing of Osama bin Laden. Thememo offered to reshape Pakistan’s national security leadership, cleaning houseof elements within the powerful military and intelligence agencies that havesupported Islamic radicals and the Taliban, drastically altering Pakistaniforeign policy — and requesting U.S. help to avoid a military coup.

TheCable confirmed that the memo is authentic and that itwas received by Mullen. The Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani — the rumored author ofthe memo — has offered to resign over what has become a full-fledged scandalin Islamabad. The Cable spoke thisevening to the man at the center of the controversy and the conduit of the memo,Pakistani-American businessman MansoorIjaz.

“Civilians cannot withstand much more of the hardpressure being delivered from the Army to succumb to wholesale changes,” readsthe memo, sent to Mullen via an unidentified U.S. interlocutor by Ijaz. “If civilians are forced frompower, Pakistan becomes a sanctuary for UBL’s [Osama bin Laden’s] legacy and potentially the platformfor far more rapid spread of al Qaeda’s brand of fanaticism and terror. Aunique window of opportunity exists for the civilians to gain the upper handover army and intelligence directorates due to their complicity in the UBLmatter.”

The memo — delivered just 9 days after the killingof bin Laden — requests Mullen’s help “in conveying a strong, urgent anddirect message to [Pakistani Army Chief of Staff] Gen [Ashfaq Parvez]Kayani that delivers Washington’s demand for him and [Inter-ServicesIntelligence chief] Gen [AhmadShuja] Pasha to end theirbrinkmanship aimed at bringing down the civilian apparatus.”

“Should you be willing to do so, Washington’spolitical/military backing would result in a revamp of the civilian governmentthat, while weak at the top echelon in terms of strategic direction and implementation  (even though mandated by  domesticpolitical  forces),  in a wholesale manner replaces  the national security adviser and other  national security officials with trustedadvisers  that include ex-military  and civilian leaders favorably viewed byWashington, each of whom have long and historical ties to the US military,political and intelligence communities,” the memo states.

The memo offers a six-point plan for how Pakistan’snational security leadership would be altered in favor of U.S. interests. PresidentAsif Ali Zardari would start aformal “independent” inquiry to investigate the harboring of bin Laden and takesuggestions from Washington on who would conduct that inquiry. The memopromised this inquiry would identify and punish the Pakistani officialsresponsible for harboring bin Laden.

The memo pledges that Pakistan would then hand overtop al Qaeda and Taliban officials residing in Pakistan, including Ayman Al Zawahiri, Mullah Omar, and Sirajuddin Haqqani, or give U.S.military forces a “green light” to conduct the necessary operations to captureor kill them on Pakistani soil, with the support of Islamabad. “Thiscommitment has the backing of the top echelon on the civilian side of ourhouse,” the memo states.

The memo also promises a new Pakistani nationalsecurity leadership that would bring transparency and “discipline” toPakistan’s nuclear program, cut ties with Section S of the ISI, which is “chargedwith maintaining relations to the Taliban, Haqqani network” and other rogueelements, and work with the Indian government to punish the perpetrators of the2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai.

Ijaz, who has a long and controversial record ofacting as an unofficial messenger for the Pakistani and U.S. governments, hasclaimed repeatedly that the memo came from a seniorPakistani official close to Zardari and was given to Mullen through a U.S. interlocutorclose to  the then-serving Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman.

Today, in an exclusive interview with The Cable, Ijaz alleged that Pakistan’sU.S. ambassador, Husain Haqqani, wasnot only the author of the memo, but the “architect” of the entire plan tooverthrow Pakistan’s military and intelligence leadership, and was seeking U.S.help.

“Haqqani believed he and thepresident (Zardari) could redraft the architectural blueprint of how Pakistanshould be governed in the future — with civilians in command of the armedforces and intelligence services and the memorandum’s content was geared inthat direction,” Ijazsaid.

Over the past month, the rumors of the memo and itscontents have ballooned into a huge political crisis in Pakistan. Islamabad’s militaryleadership has pressed Zardari to start a full inquiry and the president hassummoned Haqqani to the capital to explain himself. Haqqani offered to resignfrom his post on Wednesday, and told TheCable that he will travel to Pakistan on Friday.

On Wednesday, TheCable first reported that Mullen confirmedthe existence of the secret memo delivered to himthrough an intermediary from Ijaz on May 10. OnNov. 8, Mullen’s former spokesman Capt. John Kirby told The Cable that Mullen had no recollection of receiving the memo,but a week later, Kirby confirmed that Mullen had searched his records anddiscovered that he had indeed received the Ijaz memo — but that he gave it nocredibility and never acted on it.

Ijaz said Haqqani’s proposal, as detailed in thememo and in a series of Blackberry Messenger conversations between Ijaz andHaqqani, included the establishment of a “new national security team” in whichthe ambassador would be National Security Advisor of Pakistan. An official withthe initials “JK” would be the new foreign minister and an official with theinitials “NB” would assume a new civilian post in charge of Pakistan’s militaryand intelligence agencies.

Ijaz read out several alleged Blackberry Messengerconversations he alleges he had with Haqqani while planning the scheme and draftingthe memo. The Cable was unable toverify the veracity of these conversations; as read out by Ijaz, they paint apicture of him and Haqqani devising a coded language worthy of a spy movie todiscuss the memo while under possible surveillance.

For example, when Ijaz asked Haqqani to consideradding access by U.S. investigators to bin Laden’s wives to the offer, thewives were referred to as “the three stooges,” Ijaz said. Haqqani would use thewords “my friend” or “boss” to refer to Zardari. “There was an orchestration tocover our tracks even at that moment because there was always a possibilitythis could get out,” Ijaz said.

Once the memo was final, Ijaz said he approachedthree U.S. interlocutors, all of whom had served at the highest levels of theU.S. government. One of them was a current serving official, one was a formermilitary official, and one was a former civilian government official, Ijazsaid.

“All three of them expressedskepticism about the offers that were being made. Frankly, when you read it,you will see that these offers are sort of a sellout of Pakistan to the UnitedStates,” Ijaz said.

Ijaz said the text of the memo proves Haqqani’sinvolvement because it is full of detailed Pakistani government informationthat a mere businessman would never have had access to. Ijaz said, however,that he can’t confirm whether Zardari had any direct knowledge of the memo orthe promises contained therein. All the assurances that Zardari was involved andapproved of the memo came from Haqqani, he said.

“I believe, with what we know today,that the president probably gave him a blanket power of attorney to conduct thestealth operation and never wanted to know the details, which he left toHaqqani happily,” Ijaz said.

But why would Haqqani, who has extensive connectionsthroughout the U.S. government, need to pass the memo through Ijaz? Haqqani andZardari needed plausible deniability, said Ijaz, in case the issue blew up intoa scandal.

And it has.

“Haqqani was likely the sole architect of the back-channelintervention and needed a plausibly deniable go-between to make it work. I fitthat bill perfectly because he knew the Pakistanis, who have been assassinatingmy character and diminishing my person for decades, would have at me with gleeif things went wrong … if a leak occurred purposefully or accidentally,” Ijaz said.

Whydid Ijaz decide to reveal the existence of the memo in the first place, as hedid inan Oct. 10 op-edin the Financial Times, especiallyif he really is a secret go-between? Ijaz said it was his effort to defendMullen from attacks in the Pakistani press after Mullen sharply criticized theISI and its links to the Haqqani network in his harshly worded closing congressional testimony on Sept. 22.

“I felt very strongly about how Adm.Mullen was mistreated by the Pakistani press after he had testified in Congressand shed light on the harsh truth about Pakistan’s intelligence servicebrinkmanship,” Ijaz said. “So I felt it was necessary to set the recordstraight.”

The whole story is mired in the web of relationshipsand dealings both Haqqani and Ijaz have had over the years in their roles asmembers of the Pakistani elite in Washington. Ijaz had considered Haqqani a friend and Haqqani had even spoken at one of the charity events Ijaz organized.

Ijaz said he respects Haqqani, believes his motivesare patriotic, and sees him as a needed presence in the troubled U.S.-Pakistanrelationship.

“Haqqani has had a reputation since he becameambassador as being more of America’s ambassador to Pakistan than Pakistan’sAmbassador to America, but that’s an unfair charge,” Ijaz said. “He is someonewho is trying to help people there understand who we are and help people hereunderstand what kind of a mess [Pakistan] is.”

“In that sense, he’s done a very credible job and itwould be a loss for Pakistan to see him go,” Ijaz said. “I still consider him afriend.”

In a long statement given to The Cable over e-mail today, Haqqani flatly denied all of Ijaz’sallegations:

I refuse to accept Mr Ijaz’s claims and
assertions. I did not write or deliver the memo he describes not did I
authorize anyone including Mr Ijaz to do so.

I was in London and stayed at the Park Lane Intercontinental on the date
in May mentioned in one of the alleged conversations but I was there to meet
senior British govt officials, including Sir David Richards Chief Of General
Staff and Mr Tobias Ellwood then parliamentary Secretary for Defense. These
officials will confirm that threat of a coup was not on my mind at the time,
the state of US-Pakistan relations was.

I fail to understand why Mr Ijaz claims on the one hand to have helped
the civilian government by delivering his memo and on the other insists on
trying to destroy democracy by driving a wedge between elected civilians and
the military in Pakistan with his persistent claims. It is bizarre to say the
least.

Mr Ijaz, whom I have known and communicated with off and on for ten
years, once said to me he was richer and smarter than me so I should pay
attention to him. Clearly he does not think about the consequences of his
actions.

He may be the only so-called secret emissary in the world who likes so
much publicity. He has yet to explain why, if all he says is correct, he wrote
his Oct 10 oped and himself deliberately blew the cover off his own secret memo
and mission.

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