Central & South Asia
Lawyer quits in Pakistan 'memogate' scandal
Asma Jehangir has "no confidence" in commission of inquiry and steps down as counsel for ex-ambassador Husain Haqqani.
Last Modified: 02 Jan 2012 11:03
 Haqqani, who resigned over the affair, has denied the allegations [Reuters]

The lawyer of Husain Haqqani, the former Pakistani ambassador to the US, has resigned as his counsel saying she has "no confidence" in the judicial commission set up to investigate a secret memo scandal in which Haqqani has been implicated.

The Pakistan supreme court on Friday set up a judicial commission to investigate the "memogate" scandal that centres on a memo allegedly sent in May to Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff at the time.

The memo was allegedly drafted by Haqqani and asked for help in stopping a supposed army coup in Pakistan following the US Navy Seals raid in May that killed Osama bin Laden.

"I quit as Haqqani’s lawyer but my client will pursue his case," Asma Jehangir told Pakistan's Dawn newspaper on Sunday, adding that she told him to find another lawyer to plead his case in the Supreme Court and appear before the judicial commission.

"I have told my client he can appear before the commission if he wants to, and he will go. I have no confidence at all [in the commission]," Dawn quoted Jehangir as saying.

The scandal first erupted in October when Mansoor Ijaz, a US businessman of Pakistani origin, wrote a column in the UK's Financial Times newspaper claiming that Haqqani asked him to send the memo.

He also claimed the note had the support of Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistan president.

Both Haqqani and Zardari have denied the allegations, but Haqqani resigned afterwards under pressure.

In stepping down as counsel, Jehangir accused the court judges of being under the influence of the establishment.

"If nine judges of the Supreme Court can be [under their influence], then I am sorry to say I cannot have any expectations from the high court judges," she told Dawn.

Commission of inquiry

The court's order to institute the commission of inquiry called for the setting up a three-judge commission to investigate the scandal.

Asma Jahangir spoke to Al Jazeera on Friday about the court's ruling

It came in response to a petition filed by a group of opposition politicians, including the opposition leader and former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif.

"We should have trust and confidence in this commission," Ishaq Dar, a member of Sharif's political party and another one of the petitioners, said.

However, ruling party politicians suggested that the government's opponents on the supreme court, in the army and in the political opposition were using the scandal as a way to topple the country's leadership.

The government had argued that a court investigation was unnecessary because parliament was the more appropriate forum and was already looking into the matter.

'Denial of due process'

Speaking to Al Jazeera on Friday, Mubashir Zaidi, editor of Dawn TV, said the judiciary's move will increase the pressure on the civilian government, led by Zardari's Pakistan People's Party.

"By this judgement, the supreme court has set a tone to put further pressure on the government, as the government has to comply with the court's orders," he said.

"The government now needs to come up with a concrete strategy to deal with this properly."

At the time of the supreme court's ruling, Jehangir said: "This is the most disappointing judgment. National security has been given priority over human rights."

Speaking to Al Jazeera on Friday, she said there was no need for the new commission as there was already a parliamentary commission that was looking into the matter.

"If they had anything against my client, there are laws in this country under which they could have gone and got an investigation," she said at the time. 

"But to move to the most highest of courts as the first instance of court [appearance] is taking my client out of the queue, and that is denial of due process."

The panel will be led by the chief justice of the Balochistan high court, Qazi Faez Eisa, and is expected to deliver its report within four weeks.

Al Jazeera and agencies
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