Pakistan’s envoy: I resigned to “bring closure” to “meaningless controversy”

Laura Rozen
The Envoy

Pakistan's ambassador to Washington has resigned in the wake of controversy over a memo to American government officials that a Pakistani-American businessman alleged he conveyed on the diplomat's behalf.

The Pakistani envoy, Husain Haqqani, explained his resignation to Yahoo News Tuesday, shortly after he said on Twitter that he had asked Pakistan's prime minister to accept his resignation.

"I have resigned to bring closure to this meaningless controversy threatening our fledgling democracy," Haqqani told Yahoo News by email Tuesday.

"A transparent inquiry will strengthen the hands of elected leaders whom I strived to empower," Haqqani's email continued. "To me, Pakistan and Pakistan's democracy are far more important than any artificially created crisis over an insignificant memo written by a self-centred businessman. I have served Pakistan and Pakistani democracy to the best of my ability and will continue to do so."

Earlier Tuesday, Haqqani said on Twitter: "I have requested PM [Prime Minister Yousaf Raza] Gilani to accept my resignation as Pakistan ambassador to US." His posting came after a meeting Tuesday in Islamabad, Pakistan with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan's military and intelligence chiefs.

Pakistani state television said Haqqani's resignation had been accepted, the BBC reported.

Since Friday, Haqqani had been recalled to Pakistan over the charges from Mansoor Ijaz, a Pakistani-American businessman. Ijaz alleges that Haqqani had authorized him to dispatch a memo to a top American Pentagon official in the wake of the U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden last May in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Ijaz said the allegedly Haqqani-approved memo went out to Adm. Mike Mullen, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The memo, Ijaz said, offered to curb Pakistan's powerful military intelligence service, elements of which American officials suspected may have turned a blind eye to bin Laden's presence in their midst, and of giving support to jihadi groups.

Haqqani has vehemently denied Ijaz's account of the whole affair. In turn, Ijaz last week leaked a series of Blackberry messages that purportedly described discussions of the matter between him and Haqqani. Ijaz also reportedly shared the Blackberry messages with Pakistani intelligence chief Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, the head of Pakistan's powerful Inter-Service Intelligence directorate, in an October meeting in London.

The "Memo-gate" episode has caused a furor in Pakistan, and has put mounting pressure on Pakistani civilian leaders, including President Zardari, to distance themselves from the affair.

Haqqani told Yahoo News Tuesday that he hoped to continue to contribute to Pakistani democracy. He is expected to return to the United States.

"I have much to contribute to building a new Pakistan free of bigotry and intolerance," he said in another Twitter posting Tuesday. "Will focus energies on that."

American lawmakers said Haqqani would be missed.

"I was sorry to learn of the resignation of Ambassador Husain Haqqani," Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) said in a press statement. "He was a strong advocate for his country and the Pakistani people. I respect the Pakistani government's decision, but Ambassador Haqqani's wisdom and insights will be missed here in Washington as we continue to work through the ups and downs of our relationship."

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