News / Asia

Scandal Prompts Pakistan to Appoint New US Ambassador

Pakistan's former Information Minister Sherry Rehman talks to reporters in Islamabad, Pakistan, November 23, 2011.
Pakistan's former Information Minister Sherry Rehman talks to reporters in Islamabad, Pakistan, November 23, 2011.

Pakistan has named Sherry Rehman its new ambassador to the United States, less than 24 hours after the previous envoy, Hussain Haqqani, was ordered to resign in connection with what Pakistan’s media has widely labeled “memogate.”

Haqqani stepped down following claims he appealed for Washington's help in reining in Pakistan's powerful military.

Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, the former High Commissioner of Pakistan to Great Britain and now the Chair of Islamic studies at American University in Washington, DC told VOA's Ira Mellman that the removal of the US Ambassador reveals a deep split between Pakistan's government and it's military.

He was ordered to resign the night before after a meeting with Pakistan’s president, prime minister, and chiefs of the country's security establishment.  

Weeks earlier, a Pakistani-American businessman publicly accused Haqqani of writing an unsigned memo to the United States, seeking U.S. help to prevent a military coup in Pakistan following the American raid that killed former al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. The letter was sent in May to Admiral Mike Mullen, the top U.S. military official at the time.

Haqqani has denied any connection with the memo.

Rehman, a former journalist and Pakistani information minister, addressed the media Wednesday just hours after she was appointed as Pakistan's new ambassador to the United States. She sought Wednesday to downplay the memo’s impact. 

She dismissed the notion that the episode has in any way undermined Pakistan’s relations with the United States, saying even Washington acknowledges it is an “internal affair” of Pakistan.  As for her predecessor, she said he resigned honorably, to keep controversy from tarnishing Pakistan’s image.

Pakistan’s prime minister said Tuesday that Haqqani’s resignation was necessary to ensure a fair investigation of the memo controversy.  

For critics of Pakistan’s ruling party, the document represents an unacceptable compromise of the country’s sovereignty.

In return for U.S. help in preventing a military coup in Pakistan, the memo said a new national security team would conduct a full inquiry into allegations that Pakistan harbored bin Laden. The new team would also hand over top al-Qaida members and ensure that Pakistan's military spy agency cuts ties to the Taliban, the Haqqani network and other groups.

Former cricket superstar Imran Khan, now a top opposition figure, says he believes responsibility for the memo reaches all the way up to the president.

Khan said it is clear Haqqani had to resign, adding that if the memo proves to be authentic, then it amounts to treason.  He said he and his party are seeking a Supreme Court probe into the matter, because the government cannot be trusted to investigate itself.

The Pentagon says it never took the memo seriously, and was unconvinced it actually came from Haqqani.  Independent Pakistani security analyst Hasan Askari Risvi said that may be because the memo’s promises were difficult to believe.

“Anybody who knows politics in Pakistan understands that no Pakistani government is in a position to fulfill those commitments," he said. "Civil government is too weak to really assert against the military on these points, which are very crucial for the way the military operates in Pakistan.”

The United States says it will offer whatever help it can in Pakistan’s investigation of the controversial memo.

You May Like

Pakistan Among Developing Counties Hit Hard by Global Warming

Pakistani officials hope developed nations agree to scale back emissions, offer help in dealing with climate change

Video Speed, Social Media Shape Counterterrorism Probes

Speed is critical in effort to prevent subsequent attacks; demographics of extremists lend themselves to communicating, establishing profiles on digital platforms

Islamic State Oil Trade Seduces Friends, Foes Alike

Terrorist group rakes in up to $500 million a year in sales to customers such as Syrian government, US-supported rebels and Turkey

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigationsi
Katherine Gypson
December 01, 2015 10:06 PM
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigations

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Russia Marks World AIDS Day With Grim News

While HIV infection rates have steadied or even declined in many European countries, the caseload has grown rapidly in Russia, as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow. Over half of the new infections were transmitted through injection drug use.

Video Pakistan Hit Hard by Global Warming

As world leaders meet in Paris to craft a new global agreement aimed at cutting climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions, many developing countries are watching closely for the final results. While most developing nations contribute much less to global warming than developed countries, they often feel the effects to a disproportionate degree. As Saud Zafar reports from Karachi, one such nation is Pakistan. Aisha Khalid narrates his report.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

VOA Blogs