He was forced to step down as ambassador and return to Pakistan last month after being implicated in a controversy over a secret memo soliciting Washington’s help to prevent a possible military coup. For the former senior government official, author, journalist and scholar, it has been a stunning fall from grace, transporting him from the salons of Washington to virtual isolation in Islamabad and a possible treason charge.
Upon his return, commentators rushed to condemn him on Pakistan’s influential television talk shows. Then, before the Supreme Court had even heard his side of the story, it barred him from leaving the country, a move that prompted his attorney, Asma Jehangir, to describe the case as “pre-judged.”
The court hearing, which opened Monday, was adjourned until Thursday.
Haqqani denies involvement in the “frivolous and absurd memo,” but the talk of treason has disturbed and upset the former ambassador and his family.
“There are some people who disagree with my husband’s views, but that doesn’t give them the right to question his service to Pakistan or his patriotism,” Farahnaz Ispahani, Haqqani’s wife and a spokeswoman for President Asif Ali Zardari, said in a phone interview Tuesday.
“You’d expect the courts to follow the law and give due process, and not allow this media frenzy to decide the matter,” she said. “I am appalled by the media trial that is going on in this country.”
Haqqani’s delicate balancing act as ambassador began to unravel after the U.S. raid in Pakistan in May that killed Osama bin Laden.
Testifying Tuesday before a Pakistani inquiry relating to the raid, he said that after the attack, U.S. officials were not only unapologetic about having violated Pakistani sovereignty, they were also “intransigent and even threatening in their tone,” demanding that Pakistan provide access to data and people found in the house in Abbottabad where bin Laden was killed.
Meanwhile, he told the inquiry, so intense is the anti-U.S. sentiment in Pakistan that any attempt “to win friends and influence people favorably in the U.S. plays into the hands of those agitating against the U.S. in Pakistan.”
“The Pakistani representative is then cast as going against the wishes and sentiments of the Pakistani people,” he said.
In November, Mansoor Ijaz, a Pakistani American businessman, revealed that in early May he had sent an unsigned memo to Adm. Mike Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, via former national security adviser James L. Jones, asking for U.S. help in preventing a possible military coup.