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.
The "Memogate" scandal began when Ijaz claimed he delivered a letter approved by Zardari to Mullen that indicated Pakistan's civilian government feared a coup by the military in the turbulent times after the U.S.'s unilateral mission to kill bin Laden on Pakistani soil and sought to remove the threat before the coup had a chance.
In return for the U.S.'s support, the Pakistani government promised to go after the Haqqani terror network in Pakistan, one of the most dangerous groups to U.S. interests in the country, according to the letter, which was first published by Foreign Policy.
Mullen initially did not remember receiving any such memo but was later able to track down a copy, according to Capt. Jack Kirby, Mullen's former spokesperson.
"That said, neither the contents of the memo nor the proof of its existence altered or affected in any way the manner in which Adm. Mullen conducted himself in his relationship with Gen. Kayani and the Pakistani government," Kirby said. "He did not find the memo at all credible and took no note of it then or later."
Once news of the alleged memo spread in Pakistan, so did calls for Haqqani's resignation.
Haqqani has denied any role in writing or delivering the memo and said he is "happy to face an inquiry" about it, according to local reports.
Haqqani took to Twitter after his resignation and said, "I have much to contribute to building a new Pakistan free of bigotry [and] intolerance. [I] will focus energies on that."
ABC News' Luis Martinez contributed to this report.