Mansoor Ijaz is an interesting character. Born and raised in America, he has burst into the limelight of Pakistani politics after the infamous op-ed published in which he claimed that he was part of a secret mission seeking American support to replace the military leadership. For certain journalists and media tycoons who have been gunning for Asif Zardari since day one, this was the closest thing to the smoking gun they had been praying for. As the case carries on, however, we might want to pay closer attention to which way the smoking gun is pointing.
Media was quick to ignore the fact that the guy who delivered the supposed smoking gun all wrapped up with a bow has a long history of writing strongly against Pakistan and other Muslim countries in the Western media, including being a ‘Terrorism Analyst’ for the neocon FOX News. But why question the messenger who’s delivering you the gift you’ve been dreaming of?
The American response to the controversy was also muted. Ambassador Munter appeared on Capital Talk saying the Americans considered it an internal issue for Pakistan and that they would not get involved. Following disaster after disaster in the Pak-US relationship, it was no wonder that the Americans wanted to sit this one out. Now matter how much Husain Haqqani was respected in Washington, the Americans weren’t going to sacrifice their relationship with Pakistan for one man.
This created something of a perfect storm against the government. No one liked Mansoor Ijaz, but everyone was willing to set aside their doubts since he was handing them the government on a silver platter.
Over the past few days, though, the story has taken an even more bizarre turn. Speaking to Fareed Zakaria on CNN, Mansoor Ijaz said that “it is still my view today that section S of the ISI has been involved in some very, very nefarious activities, and so since nobody was able to get their arms around that, the United States had to take the lead on that”. But then he goes on to admit that “we haven’t strengthened the civilian side of Pakistan’s government”.
If Mansoor Ijaz believes the military and the ISI are involved in “very nefarious activities”, many ask, why would he take an action that clearly divides the military from the civilian leadership? The answer may be in another of Ijaz’s statements…”There will never be a time in my view where the military is subservient to the civilians in our lifetime”.
If you want to neuter the military, but you don’t believe the civilians are capable, what do you do? Why not dust off the old British strategy of divide and conquer?
Actually, some are beginning to suspect that this was Ijaz’s goal all along. Diplomatic sources in the West now saying that they suspect Ijaz’s scheme is a plot to destabilize Pakistan: “Some elements are now keeping this story alive. Ijaz and his backers want to create a political crisis.”
Such a plot would finally explain why Mansoor Ijaz’s first target was Husain Haqqani. A controversial figure at home, the Ambassador who was termed “hardest working man in DC” had the respect of top figures in the US establishment and was able to effectively defend Pakistan’s interests during some of the hardest times between the two nations, including following the discovery of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad and the arrest of CIA informants in Pakistan. With Haqqani out of the way, Ijaz has left Pakistan without its defender in the US.
Now that there is no Husain Haqqani to defend Pakistan in Washington and the Western media, Ijaz has set the stage for a judicial inquiry. This is important because remember what is said and exhibited in the court is public record. For most issues of such national sensitivity, an in-camera inquiry would be ordered to protect the national interest. But in this case, Ijaz has carefully created a political, not a national security crisis.
Over the weekend, Mansoor Ijaz continued to fan the flames of the case in the media, and told reporters that he was prepared to come to Pakistan to present evidence before the court. This is a curious statement considering Mansoor Ijaz already had a private meeting with Gen Pasha during which he supposedly handed over all of his evidence to the ISI chief. If he was telling the truth, what would he present before the court that is not already in the hands of the ISI?
To get a hint, perhaps we should revisit Mansoor Ijaz’s statements both before and after his controversial op-ed.
On 3rd May, Mansoor Ijaz told FOX News that president Zardari is “a naive buffoon” who doesn’t control the military, and that all signs point to the military protecting Osama bin Laden.
Two days later, on 5th May, Mansoor Ijaz told an American news radio programme that Pakistan’s military “absolutely knew” Osama bin Laden was in Abbottabad.
In his 10th October op-ed for Financial Times, Mansoor Ijaz termed the ISI as “terror masters” and wrote that “The time has come for America to take the lead in shutting down the political and financial support that sustains an organ of the Pakistani state that undermines global antiterrorism efforts at every turn.”
Actually, the one thing that has never changed about Mansoor Ijaz’s story are his claims that he has evidence that the ISI is supporting militants. The only problem was that Husain Haqqani was always defending Pakistan and getting the Americans to stop paying attention. But now there’s no Haqqani to defend Pakistan in the halls of Washington, and in their determination to get at the government, the opposition parties have opened a public forum for Mansoor Ijaz to present his evidence before the court and finally achieve his stated goal of “stopping the terror masters at their very roots”.
In 1860, Lieutenant Colonel Coke said of the strategy of the British Raj, “Divide et impera should be the principle.” It seems Mansoor Ijaz has studied his history well.