The media made a mess of Memogate
In the last couple of months our country has been plunged into a self created crisis that our media has dubbed ‘Memogate’. Everyone who is anyone has an opinion on the issue, which has become the most discussed topic in the country.
However, throughout this discussion on the memo issue, majority of the people have either failed to understand what it actually is, or have simply taken the media for its word without putting all the facts in perspective. In this blog, I am not going to give you an opinion on this issue. What I am going to do is present you with all the facts that our media has stopped mentioning, as the issue has evolved over the last few months, and let you make your own conclusions about this whole episode.
Starting out, let us first look at what the memo really is. The text of the memo is freely available on the web now. It is a document that apparently asks for the help of the US authorities in order to contain the military establishment in Pakistan in the aftermath of the May 2 episode where the US Marines violated Pakistan’s airspace in an operation to kill Osama bin Laden. The memo is in the name of Admiral Mike Mullen. It basically talks about how the military establishment might attempt to take over the civilian government, and if the US were to help the government of Pakistan with this, the GoP would be inclined to appoint more US friendly army generals. So that is effectively what the whole memo says. But it is an unsigned document and bears no seal of any Government of Pakistan representative.
The first our media heard of the memo was courtesy of an article written by a person called Mansoor Ijaz in the Financial Times, who boasted about the existence of this memo. The article he wrote bashed the Pakistan Army and ISI, calling them dangerous. This was not the first time Mansoor Ijaz had written against the Pakistan Army, in fact he has a habit of doing so on a regular basis. He has built a reputation for himself as being extremely anti-Pakistan Army and being anti- Pakistan in general.
His article mentioning the memo came out on October 10, 2011 but it did not mention who wrote that article, nor did it mention how this memo was sent to the Admiral. What it did say however was that there was a memo and it had been given to the Admiral.
Predictably, our media simply took his word for it. Then on October 30 in Lahore, PTI chief Imran Khan announced that Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the US had written the memo. And finally on November 10, in another article Mansoor Ijaz announced that it was Husain Haqqani who had asked him to write the memo to the Admiral. This time again, our media just took his word for it. He further provided fairly cryptic BlackBerry (BB) Messenger chat records to substantiate his claim. Instead of inquiring further our media just took Mansoor Ijaz at his word and ran the story. They started asking for Husain Haqqani’s head. It was later revealed that our DG ISI had travelled to London to see Mansoor Ijaz who had given him the BB message evidence, which led the Army to ask the Government to bring Mr Haqqani home and request his resignation.
Mr Haqqani duly resigned and the Supreme Court has constituted a commission to investigate this issue.
Now that you know exactly what has happened, here are a few glaring holes in this whole story that have been lost in translation.
1) Before Mansoor Ijaz even mentioned Husain Haqqani’s name as the person who allegedly dictated the memo, how did Imran Khan know? This is a question that has been asked several times but has never been answered. Pakistan’s media only found out on November 10. Our media is pretty good at spreading conspiracies and half truths, and if they did not know, who told Imran Khan?
2) At multiple instances throughout this saga, the story has changed. Initially it was Mansoor Ijaz and Husain Haqqani who wrote the memo together. Then the story shifted to Hussain Haqqani writing it; then it was Hussain Haqqani who dictated it and Mansoor Ijaz wrote it. Finally, we have reached the conclusion that Mansoor Ijaz wrote it.
There was also a lot of discussion about how the memo got to Admiral Mullen. Our anchors pummeled Husain Haqqani with questions like ‘how did you send it?’ Eventually we were told that Mansoor Ijaz requested General James Jones who forwarded the email to the office of Admiral Mullen, whose staff dismissed the email and just filed it away. The question here is very simple: Why did our media consistently take Mansoor Ijaz at his word and attack Husain Haqqani even though Haqqani was our ambassador at the time, and was stating something that turned out to be true ie he did not write the memo and that memo might have been emailed. Why have the same anchors that simply blamed and dragged Husain Haqqani through the mud suddenly gone silent on their own stupidity and bad reporting? And why is Mansoor Ijaz being trusted more than our own ambassador?
3) Now that the case is in court, the courts have finally asked RIM to provide data logs of the alleged communication between Mansoor Ijaz and Husain Haqqani. Why was this not done earlier? Why did our media simply take Mansoor Ijaz’s word for it instead of asking the government and Mr Ijaz to provide certifiable proof that the alleged communication did take place by contacting RIM in the first place? Why was Mr Haqqani made to resign over something he did not write based on evidence that is not certifiable?
4) Who has given the right to our media to pass judgments about people and cases without stating all the facts or even investigating the facts in front of them? Why did our media hold a trail out of court based on absolutely no evidence?
The whole ‘memogate’ issue when inspected closely is probably the dumbest story ever written. It is a story that has so many holes in it that it could give Swiss cheese a run for its money. And yet, this story has been the headline for months now and has even made our institutions take positions against each other. This whole controversy not only shows how childish our media truly is but it also exposes how easy it is to make our institutions fight each other and make a general mockery of Pakistan. A person like Mansoor Ijaz who is not seriously taken in the US was able to run circles around our institutions and media.
This whole episode, instead of being celebrated, should be taken as a humbling experience for our media and institutions. They need serious soul searching after this. But I am certain the chances of that happening are as high as those of elephants flying.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.