By; Dean Nelson south Asia Editor Daily Telegraph London
04 Jan 2012
In an exclusive interview with The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, he said he has been branded a ‘traitor’ and a ‘Washington lackey’ by ‘powerful quarters’ – a reference to the country’s powerful ISI intelligence agency –and that he now fears he will be murdered like his friend, the late governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, who was shot dead by one of his own security guards last year after being branded a ‘blasphemer.’
Mr Haqqani was forced to resign last year after a Pakistani-American businessman claimed he had asked him to pass on a memo to the American government calling for their help to oust Islamabad’s military leadership.
The businessman, Mansoor Ijaz, said the memo contained an offer, backed by President Asif Zardari, that if Washington helped to oust the current military leadership, a new ‘national security’ team would disband the Army unit which collaborates with the Taliban and other anti-Western militant groups.
He was recalled from Washington and now faces a Supreme Court commission inquiry amid accusations that he betrayed his country by colluding with the United States to compromise its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Both President Zardari and Mr Haqqani have denied any involvement in the ‘memogate’ controversy and Mr Haqqani has vowed to challenge the allegations in evidence to the commission.
He told The Daily Telegraph the allegations against him are false and part of a “psychological war” against the government of President Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani by “certain powerful quarters.”
Analysts said the row is part of a feud between the country’s elected political leadership and a military establishment determined to pursue the matter, regardless of how deep it plunges the country into further crisis. Western diplomats fear it could eventually bring down President Zardari’s elected government.
On Tuesday Mr Haqqani said both the president and prime minister were standing behind him and were determined to stay and challenge the allegations. He was speaking after his lawyer, Pakistan’s top human rights lawyer Asma Jahangir, revealed he had taken refuge in the prime minister’s residence for fear that the ISI intelligence agency would force him to make a false statement on the affair.
He told The Daily Telegraph he had only left the prime minister’s residence on three occasions, each under heavy security escort.
“I’m a guest of the prime minister with whom I have had a long-standing political association. There are clear security concerns given the hysteria generated against me. Staying at the prime minister’s house is the safest option.
“My good friend Salman Taseer was killed by a security guard because he heard in the media that the governor had blasphemed. I’m being called a traitor and an American lackey in the media with the clear encouragement of certain powerful quarters even though I’ve not been charged legally with anything,” he said.
He had left the prime minister’s home to go to “the Supreme Court once to meet my lawyer with very heavy security, and one day to the dentist, when I had a toothache, and to the Abbotabad Commission (into the American raid which killed Osama bin Laden), with massive security.
“If required I will appear before the inquiry commission with the necessary security. It is not what I would like to do. I’d like to be able to go to a restaurant or visit my family,” he added.
Friends of Mr Haqqani said he has been alarmed by repeated suggestions that “his noose is tied” or that he may turn “approver” and give evidence implicating President Zardari in the affair in exchange for immunity.
They said none of the evidence against him – mainly BlackBerry message exchanges with Mansoor Ijaz – prove authorship or knowledge of the alleged memo to oust Pakistan’s military leadership.
“The president and prime minister are firmly standing behind me and the government is not going anywhere. This is psychological warfare against the government,” he said.