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Pakistan's envoy to U.S. resigns over alleged bid for U.S. help

November 22, 2011 |  8:17 am

REPORTING FROM ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN -- Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S. stepped down Tuesday following accusations that he engineered a memo to the U.S. urging Washington to help rein in his country’s powerful armed forces, becoming the first casualty in a scandal that has exposed the growing chasm between the Asian nation's civilian and military leadership.

Husain Haqqani, a close ally of President Asif Ali Zardari and widely regarded as an influential figure in Washington, resigned after being requested to do so by Prime Minister Yusaf Raza Gilani, according to a statement issued by Gilani’s office.

Before resigning, Haqqani met with Zardari, Gilani, army Chief of Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and the country’s spy agency chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, at the prime minister’s residence in Islamabad.

Haqqani has been at the center of a growing controversy involving Pakistani American businessman Mansoor Ijaz’s claim that Haqqani had enlisted him to convey a memo to then-chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen. The memo, allegedly from Zardari, sought Washington’s assistance in fending off a possible government overthrow by Pakistan’s military following the American commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden on May 2.

In exchange for Washington’s help, the unsigned letter stated, Zardari’s administration would eliminate a wing of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency that maintains links with Afghan insurgent groups and would give U.S. troops the go-ahead to hunt down Afghan militants enjoying sanctuary in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Haqqani had denied any involvement in the memo, but he had also offered to quit to defuse the crisis, which has renewed longstanding tensions between the Pakistani military and Zardari’s government. Details from Haqqani’s meetings with Pakistan’s top military and civilian leaders were not released, and it wasn't immediately clear whether Haqqani maintained his innocence.

Haqqani, 55, was an analyst at a Boston University think tank in 2008 when he was appointed as ambassador to the U.S. His work in government was preceded by an eight-year career in journalism in the 1980s, covering the war in Afghanistan for Voice of America radio and writing about Pakistan and Afghanistan for the Far Eastern Economic Review.

He has been a staunch defender of Zardari during the Pakistani leader’s embattled presidency, as well as an ardent voice against extremism. At times, however, he has been viewed by critics, particularly the military, as too soft on the U.S. and its policies toward Pakistan.


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Photo: Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, right, talks with President Asif Ali Zardari in Multan, Pakistan, in 2010. Credit: B.K. Bangash / Associated Press