The Pakistani media are having a feeding frenzy over an op-ed written more than a month ago in the London-based Financial Times by Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz. In his op-ed, Ijaz asserts that the Zardari government—through a senior Pakistani diplomat he later identified as Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani—asked him to deliver a memo to former U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, requesting his intervention to prevent a military coup in Pakistan in the wake of the Osama bin Laden raid. Ijaz claims he delivered that request via letter on May 10.
Admiral Mullen has confirmed he received a letter from Ijaz, but said he paid no attention to it because he found it non-credible. Pakistan’s defense minister, Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar, also questioned Ijaz’s credibility, saying “he was a dubious character who cannot be trusted.”
So why are the Pakistani media making such a fuss over this? And why would Mansoor Ijaz, who claims to be a close confidante of Husain Haqqani, abruptly decide to throw him under a bus?
Conspiracy theories are a dime a dozen in South Asia, especially these days when anti-American sentiment is at an all-time high in Pakistan. Unfortunately, the media appear to be using the Ijaz letter to inflame criticism of the Pakistani government. In his op-ed, Ijaz refers to Pakistan’s civilian government as “incompetent and toothless.”
Many believe there may be moves afoot to undermine the Zardari government, and the Mansoor Ijaz letter may be one of the acts in the drama.
This would be unfortunate. Pakistan remains an unstable country in desperate need of major economic and foreign policy change. The dust-up over a letter written by someone of questionable credibility is a distraction from Pakistan’s real problems. Pakistan’s political and military leadership would be better served by focusing their attention on bringing stability to the country, including implementing necessary economic reforms and cracking down on insurgent and terrorist groups that threaten both Pakistani citizens and the global community.