Pakistan's embattled ambassador to the United States resigned today under pressure from the country's powerful military, possibly weakening an already-struggling civilian government.
Husain Haqqani offered to resign late last week after being accused of facilitating a request to the U.S. to help Pakistan's civilian government depose the military leadership. His resignation was finally accepted today, after he returned to Islamabad amid a media storm dubbed "Memogate."
In resigning, Haqqani did not accept that he had anything to do with an alleged memo that was delivered to then-U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen and apparently written by Mansoor Ijaz, an American businessman of Pakistani descent, asking to prevent a possible coup and promising increased anti-terror operations in return.
"I have resigned to bring closure to this meaningless controversy threatening our fledgling democracy," Haqqani told ABC News. "A transparent inquiry will strengthen the hands of elected leaders whom I strived to strengthen. To me Pakistan and Pakistan's democracy are far more important than any artificially created crisis over an insignificant memo written by a self-centered businessman."
Haqqani was forced out by the heads of Pakistan's military and intelligence service, who have long believed he was too close to the U.S., according to Pakistani military officials. In Pakistan, Haqqani is often derided by military officials as "having gone native," a snide reference to the perception that he has been too helpful to the U.S. on controversial American policies, such as drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas.
Haqqani has not hid the fact he believes the military is too powerful compared to the civilian government, and he and his allies have described for years how they were trying to strengthen the civilian government, which has only been in power for half of Pakistan's 64 years of existence.
Haqqani's removal is a blow to President Asif Ali Zardari and to the civilian institutions as a whole, which ultimately felt they could not resist military pressure when it came to Haqqani.
In many ways, it will be Haqqani's replacement who could reveal just how weakened Zardari and the civilian government has been. If he is replaced by an official close to the military establishment, it could be seen as another setback to the civilian government's authority over foreign policy. If Haqqani's replacement is more moderate, Haqqani could be seen as having sacrificed his job to continue the influence of the civilian government over policy toward the U.S.
His critics, however, point out that despite how close he was seen to the military and the CIA in Washington, the US-Pakistan relationship has actually gotten worse since he took over, not better.