Pakistan 'memogate': US scholars' fear for Haqqani

Husain Haqqani (centre), after appearing before the Supreme Court inquiry on Monday 9 January
Image caption Mr Haqqani denies any role in the 'memogate' scandal

A group of prominent US scholars has expressed concern to Hillary Clinton over the safety of Husain Haqqani, the former Pakistani ambassador to the US.

They have written to the US secretary of state to say that Mr Haqqani is under intense pressure in Pakistan and faces "possible threats to his life".

Mr Haqqani is at the centre of a row over an unsigned memo that asked for US help in curbing the powers of the army.

Pakistan's Supreme Court set up an inquiry into the matter in December.

It has ordered that Mansoor Ijaz, the Pakistani-American businessman who drafted the memo, be issued with a visa so that he can testify before it.

Mr Ijaz's lawyers say that he will be able to come to Pakistan from the US on 16 January to appear before the inquiry.

Coup fears?

Mr Haqqani returned to Pakistan in November. He had resigned days earlier as ambassador in order to face the inquiry.

He has been accused by Mr Ijaz of helping to draft the controversial memo - handed to the US authorities in May 2011 - asking for their help to avert a military coup in Pakistan.

The country'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.

Mr Haqqani denies any role in the controversy.

"I had no role in creating, drafting and/or delivering the memorandum," he told the inquiry on Monday. "I have no knowledge of the origin, authenticity or purpose of the said memo."

The Supreme Court has banned him from travelling abroad, and his passport has been confiscated.

Petitioners in the case are demanding that Mr Haqqani and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari should be tried on charges of treason.

'Worthless paper'

The US-based scholars - all Pakistan experts at US universities - say in their letter that "significant segments of the Pakistani media have already judged Mr Haqqani to be guilty of treason, which could inspire religious extremists to take the law into their own hands".

Letter written by US-based scholars [1]

They have called upon the US government to "continue to weigh in with key Pakistani leaders... to ensure that Husain Haqqani is not physically harmed and that [the] due process of law is followed".

Last week, his lawyer - the well-known human rights activist Asma Jehangir - refused to appear before the commission constituted by the court after publicly expressing doubts about its impartiality.

Earlier, she expressed concerns that Mr Haqqani could be picked up by the ISI intelligence service with the aim of forcing him to issue a statement that suited their interests.

Image caption Both the Supreme Court and parliament are investigating the scandal

Mr Haqqani is so fearful of the threats against him that he has in recent days been living in the prime minister's house.

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says that the "memogate" scandal has divided Pakistan's state institutions - the government and the military establishment.

Our correspondent says that while the security services believe there is enough evidence to warrant an inquiry into the case, the government believes the memo is a "worthless piece of paper" which is being used to damage democracy in Pakistan.

PM Yousuf Raza Gilani has accused both the army and the ISI of "acting illegally" by filing statements before the Supreme Court inquiry without prior approval from the government.

Legal experts say that if Mr Haqqani is found to have played a role drafting the memo, it could have consequences for President Zardari, whose government has had uneasy relations with the military and the judiciary.

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