In light of recent legal proceedings and directions by the Supreme Court, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has asked for more time to register a case against former Ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani. Earlier, Interpol did not play ball when it came to issuing warrants for him; while Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has dismissed Memogate as ‘a fake case’. Be that as it may, the Pakistan government and the apex court need to proceed with caution. For to do otherwise will only impair the country’s image abroad.
The move to file a case against Mr Haqqani is indicative of how, despite the directions of the highest court in the land, Pakistani law enforcement officials remain possibly unsure as to whether he can technically be charged with a crime. Yet if the motive is to make Interpol act then this is certainly not the way to go about it. Especially considering that the case itself is weak and the actual incidence of crime missing. After all, the charter of the international police organisation does not allow it to act in matters such as Memogate, which relate to alleged treason or sedition.
For all intents and purposes, the Memogate affair is a political case and a manifestation of civil-military divide that existed during the PPP government and persists to date. In general, international law does not allow for extradition in political cases. Our honourable judges and lawyers ought to be aware of this. And if past precedents are to be considered, then it is worth recalling how Interpol refused to issue warrants on similar grounds for Altaf Hussain, General Pervez Musharraf and Brahumdagh Bugti.
In the eventuality of the FIA aiming to build a stronger case – this may not work either. For the truth is that six years have passed since Mr Haqqani resigned as ambassador; meaning that Interpol will be well within its rights to ask the government of Pakistan as to why any wrongdoing by its former representative has taken so long to discover.
After all, it does not reflect well on a country when it declares the one-time public face of the government and state a ‘traitor’; and that, too, without proper trial and due process. The world may ask how ambassadors are appointed and why their alleged treason did not duly come to light at the offset. There are many in Pakistan, including this newspaper, that do not fully agree with the views of the former ambassador, but then singling out individuals for divergent opinions is the last thing a democratic country should do.
The state institutions need to acknowledge that we are dealing with a dissident former ambassador, who is also considered a scholar on Pakistan; whether we like him or not. Let us disagree with him just as he disagrees with us instead of stretching the law to go after him. The exercise so far has proved to be counterproductive and has turned us into a veritable laughing stock around the world. *
Published in Daily Times, March 8th 2018.