Pakistan's Supreme Court eases tensions between civilian-military ties by allowing Husain Haqqani to travel outside the country.
‘Memogate’ envoy has Pakistan travel ban lifted
ISLAMABAD // Pakistan's Supreme Court further eased tension yesterday between civilian-military ties by lifting a travel ban on a former envoy to Washington, who angered the generals after the emergence of a murky memo.
Husain Haqqani was barred from leaving the country in December by the Supreme Court, which is investigating the memo that sought US help in reining in Pakistan's generals after the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May last year.
Yesterday, a panel of nine justices said that Mr Haqqani was free to travel outside Pakistan, but must inform the Supreme Court, which has formed a commission to investigate the memo, of his plans in advance.
"I am glad that the Supreme Court has restored my right to travel, which had been rescinded without any charges being filed against me," Mr Haqqani said. "I will join my family in the US after discussions with the leaders of the Pakistan People's Party."
The scandal, which has come to be known as "Memogate", highlighted the tense relationship between Pakistan's civilian governments and the powerful military that has bedevilled the country for decades.
The military, which sets foreign and security policies, has ruled Pakistan for more than half its 64-year existence through a series of coups.
Mr Haqqani returned to Pakistan in November last year amid the crisis that erupted when the businessman, Mansoor Ijaz, alleged in October that a senior Pakistani diplomat had asked the memo to be delivered to the Pentagon. He resigned as ambassador shortly after arriving back in Pakistan.
Mr Ijaz later identified the diplomat as Mr Haqqani, who denies any links with the memo. No evidence has emerged that the military was plotting a coup and the Pentagon at the time dismissed the memo as not credible.
But in the months that followed, the scandal threatened to turn into a full-blown conflict between the civilian leadership and the military. Mr Ijaz was scheduled to testify before the commission in January, but he did not come to Pakistan because of security fears, he said.
Mr Ijaz's refusal to testify in person and demands for high levels of security have also annoyed the court, and diminished his credibility, Salman Akram Raja, a Supreme Court advocate and constitutional expert, said.
"When Mansoor Ijaz did not show up last week, that signalled the de-escalation of the crisis," said the security analyst Imtiaz Gul. "The removal of restrictions on Haqqani's travel was the next logical step in this de-escalatory process."
The prime minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani, made conciliatory remarks towards the military in Davos this weekend. The army chief, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, has also moved to calm the rhetoric, saying he supports democracy and limited the military's responses to press releases.
"It is clear the government and the military have arrived at an understanding on this," Mr Raja said. "This is consistent with the impression of the general de-escalation surrounding the memo matter."
The Supreme Court on Monday also extended by two months the deadline for its three-member commission to complete the investigation. It was initially given four weeks.
Mr Haqqani will also be required to return to Pakistan on a four-day notice if demanded by the commission.