Zardari returns to Pakistan to face accusations of treason

Embattled President is investigated over claims he sought US aid to rein in military

Islamabad

Pakistan's President, Asif Ali Zardari, has returned to his country from medical treatment in the Middle East as his government struggles to fight off allegations of treason sparked by the so-called Memogate scandal.

The embattled Mr Zardari suddenly left Dubai where he been recovering from a mild stroke to arrive in Karachi in the middle of the night, just hours before the Supreme Court held its latest hearings into the affair. It is investigating whether Mr Zardari or his aides sought US military help to rein in his own country's generals.

"The President is thankfully fit and healthy and that is why he has returned," Shazia Marri, the local information minister, told Reuters.

The controversy centres on a note dispatched by a Pakistani-American businessman to the US military in the aftermath of the May raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The businessman, Mansoor Ijaz, said in a subsequent newspaper article that he had been asked to pass on the memo from a senior Pakistani diplomat.

The controversy has already claimed one scalp. Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to the US and a close ally of Mr Zardari, was forced to step down after Mr Ijaz accused him of asking him to draft and pass on the memo, apparently at the behest of the President. Mr Haqqani has denied this.

Last week there were further waves when Mr Ijaz confirmed to The Independent that he was told by US intelligence sources that Pakistan's military was indeed contemplating ousting Mr Zardari in the aftermath of the Bin Laden raid.

The Supreme Court investigation into the affair and the alleged role of the various personalities followed a request filed by the opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif. Yesterday, the court asked the various parties to respond to the allegations and adjourned the hearing until Thursday.

The affair is the latest incident to underscore the deepening divide between Mr Zardari's weak and unpopular civilian government, and a military that has recovered from the embarrassment of the Bin Laden raid.

In an effort to ease some of those tensions, the Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, held a three-hour crisis meeting with army chief General Ashfaq Kayani over the weekend. Analysts say it was a sign that the military does not wish to topple the government.

Instead, the focus of the army's rage appears to be Mr Haqqani, a fierce critic of the military and whose alleged role is being examined by the court. The army's senior commanders have been telling their formations that it is Mr Haqqani who is responsible for the controversial memo. They have stopped short of directly accusing Mr Zardari.

The drama has played out even as the relationship between the US and Pakistan has plunged to a new low. This was triggered by a Nato air strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers located on the border with Afghanistan. The supply route through Pakistan remains shut as a result of the stand-off.

Precisely how the Memogate controversy will conclude is unclear. Although Mr Zardari has returned to Pakistan, ending rumours that he was to remain out of the country, the pressure may continue as old corruption charges threaten to resurface in the new year.

In the days ahead, he will spend time convalescing. He is due to speak on the fourth anniversary of the murder of his wife, the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, on 27 December.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...