Asia

Pakistan tested by 'memogate' row - Hina Rabbani Khar

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Media captionHina Rabbani Khar, says she hopes an inquiry will bring an end to the row

Pakistan's "memogate" controversy has raised questions about the strength of the country's civilian government, FM Hina Rabbani Khar has told the BBC.

The memo asked for Washington's help to avert a military takeover following the killing of Osama Bin Laden in May.

It was delivered to Admiral Mike Mullen, then Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, the same month.

Pakistan's former ambassador to the US, Hussain Haqqani, denied he was the author of the unsigned memo.

He lost his job anyway - many believe at the army's insistence.

'Highest level' inquiry

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar admitted the controversy had provoked questions about the authority of the civilian government here, and created the impression that the army is pulling the levers of power.

"Sadly it does," she said. "I cannot deny that, and that's an unfortunate part that something as ludicrous as this could raise more questions. It doesn't take much to be able to raise those questions."

Asked who had the upper hand - the civilian government or the army - the minister replied that it was "an evolutionary process".

"You cannot change things overnight. The army has had a larger-than-life role to play in Pakistan's history. However, you do have a democratic set up."

Pakistan's opposition is asking the Supreme Court to determine who sent the memo and why.

The foreign minister insisted that an inquiry announced by the government would be thorough, though critics doubt that.

"The inquiry would be at the highest level, something which satisfies all parties, all people, all constituencies, who have raised concern about this entire issue.

Image caption Mr Haqqani denies any links to the unsigned memo

"And we would hope that... this is where it should and will stop", Mrs Khar added.

Mixed messages

But the questions are likely to persist: chief among them whether Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari authorised the memo himself.

Mrs Khar said that any suggestion that the president was linked to the memo was "ridiculous".

She refused to comment on whether or not the government was in talks with the Pakistan Taliban (TTP). The government has said it wants to hold negotiations with the Taliban in order to "give peace a chance".

In recent days, militants have been sending mixed messages about whether or not there are contacts taking place.

Mrs Khar said Pakistan could help in the search for peace in Afghanistan, but it had not brokered any more meetings between envoys of the Haqqani group - Afghan insurgents believed to operate in Pakistan's tribal belt - and US representatives.

Pakistan's spy agency, the ISI, arranged an initial meeting between the two sides in the summer.

"Pakistan cannot guarantee anything," Mrs Khar said. "We can play a positive role, but it has to be at the request of the Afghans. If the Afghans distrust us, there's less space for us."

She said she was not concerned about the fact that some in the US Congress wanted to cut off billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan, if it failed to take military action against the Haqqanis.

"No, I am not worried about that risk," she said.

"We could do without it, and if the feeling in the US Congress is that we have done too much for Pakistan, the feeling in the Pakistani parliament is that you have done too less."

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