Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Tuesday disclosed that the Asif-Zardari-led Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) government had formally authorised the then ambassador of Pakistan to the US, Husain Haqqani, to directly issue visas to Americans.
Winding up discussion in the Senate on an adjournment motion about the recent revelations made by Haqqani, he said the Ministry of Interior wrote a letter to the then ex-ambassador on July 16, 2010, authorising him to issue ‘diplomatic visas’ to Americans without referring or consulting the interior ministry or security agencies in this regard.
He said this marked a significant policy change as the number of visas issued to the Americans registered a quantum jump as the number reached 2,487 within a short period of six months, adding the number was, however, 1,659 in the preceding six months. The adviser also said Haqqani made a misstatement on the issue of visas when he recorded his statement before the Abbotabad Commission. However, Aziz described Haqqani as a “willing instrument” used by the then political leadership. He was of the view that the matter requires a detailed inquiry and suggested formation of a parliamentary committee to hold a thorough probe.
He said the government would fully cooperate with the parliamentary panel as defence minister has already proposed the formation of a joint parliamentary panel to investigate the matter. The proposal by the MPs to grill Haqqani provided Chairman Senate Raza Rabbani with an opportunity to press for holding an investigation into the allegations against General Pervez Musharraf (retd) who allowed the Americans to enter Pakistan without any visas.
He said that Musharraf allowed Americans along with equipment to enter Pakistan without any visas, who were not even checked by the immigration officials at Benazir Bhutto International Airport. The opposition lawmakers in Senate demanded formation of a joint parliamentary committee to hold a probe into startling revelations made by former Pakistan’s Ambassador Husain Haqani.
They were speaking on an adjournment motion moved by Lieutenant General Abdul Qayyum (retd) of ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Husain Haqqani’s “confession of facilitating the US operatives to hunt down Osama bin Laden in Pakistan back in 2011”. General Qayyum said that the then PPPP government should have thought the appointment of controversial man like Haqqani as ambassador to US through. “What was the stance of this man [Haqqani] in the Memogate scandal and the Kerry Lugar Bill? What was his role in Raymond Davis’s release and opposition to sale of US F-16 planes to Pakistan, where he openly sated that it must not happen because Pakistan will use it against India? Given all this, there is a need to initiate a probe against him,” he added.
He also said the roles of Haqqani, the then president and prime minister including the Foreign Office and the Interior Ministry in facilitating and issuing visas to US operatives to hunt down Osama bin Laden should be investigated,” he demanded. Senator Mohsin Aziz of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) asked why such a ‘shadowy character’ was handpicked for the top slot of ambassador to the US, adding the Abbottabad Commission’s report should be made public to expose dubious people like Haqqani. Another PTI Senator, Azam Swati, said “a ‘rogue clown’ named Husain Haqqani must be brought back to Pakistan and be tried under Article 6”.
This prompted Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani to interrupt and say: “You can bring him [Haqqani] back because he is a civilian, but you can’t bring General Musharraf back.”
Senator Rehman Malik, former interior minister of PPPP said that Husain Haqqani pursued the policies of the Musharraf regime. He said that three former ambassadors, Dr Maliha Lodhi, General Jehangir Karamat (retd) and Javed Ashraf Qazi, had been following the same policy as Pakistan had made a commitment to track down Osama bin Laden. “Go for investigation against all the ambassadors right from Musharraf’s regime to Husain Haqqani and everything will be crystal clear,” he added.
Opposition Leader in Senate Aitzaz Ahsan said the big mistake of the PPPP was that it accepted people posted by the PML-N government, as it was the ruling party that had appointed Husain Haqqani as ambassador to Sri Lanka. Senator Farhatullah Babar of Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) said there was neither any confession nor any new revelation in Haqqani’s article and a hype had deliberately been created to malign and tarnish the image of the then President Asif Zardari.
“I hold no brief for Haqqani; he is now an independent scholar and researcher. He is no longer in the PPPP and the party has already distanced itself from him. I also do not agree to most of his views but I cannot allow this tirade against Asif Zardari,” he declared. “But if you seek to malign Zardari by using Haqqani’s or anyone else’s article, show the courage to face facts, as I’ll stand up to defend my president,” he added.
He said that visas were issued after following a laid down procedure and they were not issued by Asif Zardari or Yousuf Raza Gilani, adding this question must also have been addressed by the Abbottabad Commission. “So why not make the Commission report public to resolve once and for all the issue of visas,” he added. He said it is not uncommon for former ambassadors, presidents, prime ministers, spokespersons and public officials to write books and articles which may not be along the lines of the official position, but no fuss is created. He gave the example of Advisor Sartaj Aziz who was sitting in the House.
“In his book Between Dreams and Realities Sartaj Aziz has said that the Pakistani Army crossed the Line of Control during the Kargil war and that he and the civil government were not taken into confidence at that time,” Babar said. “Aziz had also written that critical areas of foreign policy including India, Kashmir, Afghanistan and nuclear policy were framed somewhere else and not in the Foreign Office. Shall we declare him [Sartaj Aziz] a traitor?” he questioned.
In an obvious reference to powerful military establishment, Senator Saeed Ghani of PPPP said that the people who helped Osama take shelter in Pakistan should also be identified, adding, “We take price in the fact that we helped eliminate OBL as he was a terrorist.”
Other senators belonging to both opposition and treasury demanded the formation of a parliamentary committee to investigate the veracity of claims made by Haqqani, saying there should be no compromise on matters of national security.