x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Pakistan court to probe 'memogate'

Tensions have been running high between Asif Ali Zardari's government and the military since the memo controversy was first reported in October.

ISLAMABAD // Pakistan's Supreme Court yesterday set up a judicial panel to investigate a memo in which a Pakistani diplomat allegedly solicited US help to constrain the military.

The announcement dealt a blow to the government of the president, Asif Ali Zardari, which had called for parliament to investigate the scandal, dubbed "memogate".

But the army and political opposition have urged the Supreme Court to probe the origins of the memo.

Rejecting the government's plea that it was not competent to investigate the matter, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Chaudhry, set up a four-member judicial team to collect evidence from Pakistan and abroad and complete the probe "within four weeks".

Tensions have been running high between Mr Zardari's government and the military since the memo controversy was first reported in October.

The memo solicited US help to rein in Pakistan's army from staging a possible coup after the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani military town of Abbottabad in May.

It was sent by a Pakistani American businessman allegedly on the instructions of Pakistan's then ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani.

The Abbottabad raid humiliated Pakistan's army, which faced criticism at home for not knowing that the Al Qaeda chief was living there for about five years.

Mr Haqqani is a close aide to Mr Zardari and the opposition claims the memo was sent at the behest of Mr Zardari and treason had been committed.

The main opposition party led by the former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, reiterated its call for a full probe into the scandal.

"Any Pakistani involved in this conspiracy should be given exemplary punishment," Ishaq Dar, an aide to Mr Sharif, said outside the Supreme Court.

Mr Haqqani and Mr Zardari have denied having anything to do with the memo, but Mr Haqqani stepped down, reportedly under pressure from the army on the government.