ISLAMABAD - Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered an investigation yesterday into a controversial memo, purportedly drafted by the civilian government shortly after a US raid killed Osama bin Laden, that solicited help in stopping a possible coup by the humiliated Pakistani military.
The decision to appoint a special three-judge commission to look into the memo, which came to light in October, had been widely anticipated and appeared likely to further deepen the chasm between the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party and the military.
The government has insisted that it had nothing to do with the memo, which offered to help the United States with its war on Islamic militants in Pakistan and also reshape parts of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency, in exchange for help retaining power. Pakistan’s military has dismissed the idea that it might have been planning a coup, although it has made clear that its anger at the United States over the May raid has not abated.
Party officials dismissed the memo as nothing more than a “piece of paper’’ and urged the court not to initiate an investigation because a parliamentary committee was already looking into the matter.
But Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said yesterday that the parliamentary committee proceedings would not stop the court from undertaking its own investigation into what the Pakistani media have dubbed Memogate. The judicial commission will submit its findings in four weeks, Chaudhry said.
The lawyer for the man accused of orchestrating the memo, the former ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, called the judgment disappointing.
“Today is a dark day,’’ the lawyer, Asma Jahangir, told reporters outside the court. “Today, civilian authority is under military authority.’’
The origins of the memo are in dispute. A US businessman of Pakistani descent, Mansoor Ijaz, said in October that he was asked to convey the memo to Admiral Mike Mullen, who was then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Eventually, he identified Haqqani as being behind the memo.
Haqqani has denied having anything to do with the memo. The civilian government, while supporting his account, forced him to resign his post under pressure from the military, and his passport was confiscated upon his return to Pakistan in late November.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court upheld the travel restriction on Haqqani.
The court, to ascertain the authenticity of BlackBerry messages sent between Ijaz and Haqqani, asked the attorney general, Foreign Ministry, and the Pakistani high commissioner in Canada to approach Research In Motion, the Canadian mobile device company.
The crisis has focused a spotlight on the role of Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, the head of Pakistan’s intelligence service.
Pasha, the intelligence chief, along with General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the head of the Pakistani army, insisted that the Supreme Court investigate the memo.