Pakistan's US ambassador quits over army memo

Pakistan's ambassador to the US said last night he was stepping down from his post as the swirling controversy over an alleged plot to oust the country's military leadership refused to go away.

Husain Haqqani said he was resigning while an inquiry ordered by Prime Minister Yousaf Gilani proceeded, but that he intended to work for his country's future. "I have a vision for Pakistan which sees it as a future South Korea, not a future Burma," he told The Independent. "Similarly, I have a vision of US-Pakistan relations which rest on mutual trust rather than constant game-playing."

The resignation of Mr Haqqani had been widely anticipated since it emerged last week he was being called back to Islamabad to meet with the country's civilian and military leadership over an affair that has become known as "Memogate". Those meetings took place yesterday and concluded with the confirmation from the Prime Minister's office that Mr Haqqani was to be replaced.

"The Prime Minister was pleased to direct [the] conducting of a detailed investigation at an appropriate level and in the meanwhile he asked [the] Pakistan ambassador to the USA, Mr Husain Haqqani, to submit his resignation," said a statement issued by Mr Gilani's spokesman.

The controversy that has gripped Pakistan's political classes focused on a claim by a Pakistani businessman based in the US, Mansoor Ijaz, who said that in the days after a US raid killed Osama bin Laden, he had been approached by a "senior Pakistani diplomat" and asked to pass on a message to the then-Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen. In an article published in the Financial Times, Mr Ijaz suggested the diplomat wanted to convey a message from President Asif Ali Zardari requesting US help to avoid a possible coup. In exchange, the memo offered to replace the military leadership, give up several high-profile militants suspected of living in Pakistan and improve relations with Afghanistan. The controversy took on new life when Mr Mullen last week confirmed receiving the memo, though he said he ignored it.

Mr Haqqani said last night he had no connection with the memo, despite Mr Ijaz's claims that he had messages from his phone and other evidence that could prove it.

But the word in Islamabad was that the ambassador's resignation was the price being demanded by military chief General Ashfaq Kayani after he met with Mr Zardari.

There is much about the affair that makes little sense, not least the fact that Mr Haqqani was known to be seamlessly connected in Washington and would not have needed the likes of Mr Ijaz to pass on a message to the Pentagon. Mr Ijaz has a long, not entirely transparent history of trying to promote himself as a "mediator" in various South Asian controversies.

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