David Frum

06.13.12

Pakistan's Judicial Farce

mansoor-ijaz-interview
American businessman of Pakistan origin, Mansoor Ijaz, arrives at the Pakistan High Commission in London February 22, 2012. Ijaz was due to give evidence by video link on Wednesday, to a Judicial Commission that is investigating the memo that sought U.S. help in reining in Pakistan's generals after the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May last year. (Stefan Wermuth, Reuters / Landov)

The investigating commission of the Pakistani Supreme Court has handed down its findings in the "memo controversy." I've told the back story in these columns many times. It's crazily complicated, but the basic plot is: a hoax, perpetrated by a deeply implausible person, perhaps acting on his own, perhaps not, that has had the effect of besmirching the reputations of Pakistan's democrats and strengthening the hand of Pakistan's militarists and Islamists.

The hoax contained so many manifest fabrications and falsehoods that I assumed that no court could accept it, not even a Pakistani court (despite their notorious non-independence). I was wrong, as we read today in the Washington Times:

Pakistan's former ambassador to the United States Tuesday denounced a judicial inquiry that accused him of "disloyalty" to Pakistan and claimed he orchestrated a letter to the Pentagon seeking U.S. help in case of a military coup against the civilian government in Islamabad.

"I am hurt, but not surprised, by the claim of an ideological judiciary, motivated by politics and not law," Husain Haqqani told Embassy Row in an e-mail.

The case against Mr. Haqqani underscores an ugly habit of Pakistani politicians and journalists to hurl charges of conspiracy or corruption against political opponents.

It also is seen by some as an example of the traditional tension between a democratically elected government and Pakistan's military and intelligence community, often suspected of promoting anti-American terrorists.

Mr. Haqqani repeatedly has denied he had any part in writing or delivering a letter last year to U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullins, who was head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff until his retirement in September.

Mansoor Ijaz, a Pakistani-American businessman based in London, sparked the so-called "Memo-gate" scandal by claiming he worked with Mr. Haqqani to deliver the letter to Adm. Mullins from Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

Mr. Ijaz said Mr. Zardari feared a Pakistani military backlash after U.S. Navy commandos killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was hiding in a Pakistani garrison town in May 2011. Mr. Zardari also has denied any role in the affair.

Before his appointment as ambassador, Husain Haqqani wrote what ranks as the best study of the destructive role of Pakistan's military in Pakistani democracy. That work documented how the military worked through civilian institutions to subvert democracy, push Pakistan toward confrontation with the rest of the world, and promote reactionary forms of Islam.

This "memo controversy" could form almost a case study of the ugly method. The upshot demonstrates why Pakistan so consistently plays an irresponsible role in regional affairs—and why democracy in that sad country so consistently fails, even during intervals of civilian rule.