The government denies having anything to do with the memo, but the ambassador, Husain Haqqani, has been dismissed and could face a treason charge. As the storm clouds darkened, Zardari left the country for Dubai for urgent medical tests last week and has yet to return. Officials said he is resting, on doctor’s orders, after a brief illness.
Any hopes that the two sides could have patched things up during Zardari’s absence were dashed after Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, the army chief, provided an uncompromising and emotionally charged deposition to the Supreme Court inquiry.
“The Memo episode has an impact on national security,” he wrote. He added that it “unsuccessfully attempts to lower the morale of the Pakistan Army whose young officers and soldiers are laying down their lives for the security and defense of territorial integrity.”
Pakistan’s military intelligence chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, testified that, having examined the evidence, he was satisfied that the memo was not only genuine but also led back to Haqqani. Both men called for a full inquiry.
The government, in its deposition, said it had nothing “in any manner” to do with the memo. It argued that the entire affair should be handled by an already-established parliamentary committee, without involvement by the Supreme Court.
Zardari had been asked to give a deposition by Thursday but failed to do so.
“The very fact military leaders want an inquiry into the depths of the allegations shows they want to confront the civilian leadership,” said retired general and political commentator Talat Masood.
Zardari’s future in question
The question now being asked here is whether Zardari’s enemies are closing in for the kill.
Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif petitioned the Supreme Court to get involved in the case. He has long been campaigning for Zardari to go and may see early elections as being in his interest.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, another bitter foe of Zardari’s, set the tone for the inquiry with a pointed reference to the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard M. Nixon.
But whether the army wants Zardari out, or just so weakened that he cannot threaten its hegemony over foreign policy and national security, is far from clear.
Most analysts here say they believe that a coup is unlikely. The army is thought to be reluctant to shoulder the blame for ousting another civilian government and unwilling to take responsibility for running the country at a time when the economy is in shambles, extremism is rampant and foreign relations are in turmoil.