- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 17, 2011

PLOTTING IN PAKISTAN

Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani, one of the most respected foreign envoys in Washington, has offered to resign over a controversy that involves a shadowy appeal to a top U.S. military official for help in removing the powerful chiefs of Pakistan’s army and spy service.

The hint of a back-door coup with roots in Washington has roiled the Pakistani parliament and excited the hometown media into a frenzy of conspiracy theories with Mr. Haqqani at the center.

The ambassador has told Pakistan President Asir Ali Zardari that he had nothing to do with a private letter delivered to Navy Adm. Mike Mullen in May, when the latter was chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. However, Mr. Haqqani offered to step down, anyway, if his resignation would quell the dispute, a Pakistani diplomat told Embassy Row on Thursday.

“If he is considered responsible, he would resign,” said the diplomat, who asked not to be identified. “He did not deliver [the letter], nor did he write it.”

Mr. Haqqani plans to return soon to Islamabad to address parliament’s demands for answers about any knowledge he had of the activities of Mansour Ijaz, a Pakistani-American businessman at the center of the intrigue.

Mr. Ijaz last month claimed that he acted as a secret agent for Mr. Zardari and arranged for an intermediary in Washington to deliver a letter from the Pakistani president to Adm. Mullen. Mr. Zardari has denied any part in the plot.

Mr. Ijaz said the letter appealed for U.S. support for the removal of Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani as chief of staff of the army and Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha as the director-general of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

He said the letter was delivered to Adm. Mullen on May 10, eight days after U.S. Navy SEAL commandos killed al Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden in a military garrison town in Pakistan.

U.S. officials had long suspected that Pakistani spymasters and some top-ranking military officers were sheltering terrorists. At a congressional hearing in September, Adm. Mullen accused Pakistani intelligence officials of links with terrorists.

Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby told Embassy Row that Adm. Mullen received the letter, but he gave no further details about its contents or author. He added that Adm. Mullen dismissed the letter as not “at all credible.”

ASHRAF SUPPORT GROWS

A famous American criminal defense lawyer and political liberal is adding his support to embattled Iranian dissidents in their campaign for U.S. aid to stop the Iraqi government from evicting them from a former military compound north of Baghdad.

Alan Dershowitz - who has defended high-profiled defendants from heiress-turned-terrorist Patty Hearst to O.J. Simpson - will join other prominent speakers on Saturday at an 11 a.m. symposium at the Capitol Hilton to discuss the threat to about 3,400 Iranian exiles in Camp Ashraf.

The Iraqi government plans to close the compound by Dec. 31 and relocate the residents. Supporters fear Iraqi forces will launch another attack on the unarmed dissidents.

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