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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us