The Economist:Â Nov 26th 2011 | ISLAMABAD
As you were
Pakistan is forced to find a new ambassador to Washington
OFTEN during Pakistanâ€™s turbulent history has the armyâ€™s 111th Brigade swept out of its headquarters in Rawalpindi, scooted to Islamabad 20 minutes away, and effortlessly taken over the government. These days, under General Ashfaq Kayani, the soldiers know it is wiser to rule from behind the scenes, with a weak civilian government taking the blame for the countryâ€™s problems. On November 22nd the army heaped humiliation on the government, pressing it to jettison Pakistanâ€™s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, a smooth operator, over allegations that he crafted an offer to rein in the Pakistani army and its spy agency in return for American help in averting a feared coup.
The offer to the American administration was made in an unsigned memo, which Mr Haqqani denies writing. It was sent to Americaâ€™s military high command in May, during a time when relations were febrile following the killing in Pakistan by American special forces of Osama bin Laden. The memoâ€™s existence was revealed only in October, by the controversial American businessman of Pakistani origin who delivered it. It was supposedly composed on the instructions of Mr Haqqani acting on behalf of President Asif Zardari. The incendiary document proposed that government would dismantle the wing of the armyâ€™s Inter-Services Intelligence responsible for dealing with the Taliban, in return for American support.
Though the bin Laden raid was a huge embarrassment to the army, the â€œmemogateâ€ scandal showed again that real power in Pakistan still lies with the soldiers. No evidence pins the memo to Mr Zardari. Its recipient, Admiral Mike Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says he did not take it seriously. The army and the friendly television stations it whipped up forced Mr Haqqaniâ€™s exit before an investigation into the matter had even begun.
Mr Haqqani had once written a book detailing the links between the army and jihadists. In America his connections ensured a direct line to top decision-makers. The armed forces had never liked having the countryâ€™s most important relationship entrusted to him.
The government has saved a little face by appointing Sherry Rehman to succeed Mr Haqqani as ambassador in Washington. She is a rare politician of substance in the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party. She has a record as a campaigner for human rights. And she supports the governmentâ€™s welcome attempts to improve ties with India, the armyâ€™s eternal enemy. Yet the soldiers do not seem to mind her. She argues for more American understanding of army views that, she says, are shaped more by fears about a dangerous region than by self-serving ambition. The 111th can stand easy for now.