Pakistan court orders 'memogate' inquiry

Soldier outside Pakistan's Supreme Court
Image caption The court ruled that the inquiry should report back to it within a month

Pakistan's Supreme Court has set up an inquiry into a controversial unsigned memo that asked for US help in curbing the powers of the military.

The court said a panel of four high court judges would conclude its findings within a month.

The "memogate" scandal concerns a note allegedly sent from Pakistan's political leadership to US Adm Mike Mullen, via a former ambassador.

President Asif Ali Zardari's aides deny any links with the document.

Pakistan's civilian leaders were allegedly worried that the army was about to launch a coup after US forces killed Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad in May.

They say any court inquiry into the affair would be unnecessary and politically motivated. The government argues that a parliamentary committee is already looking into memogate.

Correspondents say Friday's ruling will put additional pressure on the government and could even lead to President Zardari's fall from power if a link is established.

"I think that this is one of the darkest days in history for the judiciary," said a lawyer for Pakistan's former ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani - who denies any role in the affair.

"I said in the Supreme Court too that this is a very disappointing judgement. This is a judgement that places national security above fundamental rights," lawyer Asma Jahangir said.

Earlier this week President Zardari accused Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry of failing to investigate the murder of his wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

He was addressing party supporters on the anniversary of Ms Bhutto's killing.

He pointed to a hearing the Supreme Court opened over the leaked memo as proof the court has been inconsistent.

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