The whim of media in calling this recent fiasco over information spill ‘memogate’ was simply prophetic. The resignation of Husain Haqqani as the Pakistani Ambassador to the US, uncannily mirrors the Watergate scandal that resulted in Richard Nixon’s resignation (the only ever US President to resign). However, in this new age of media where WikiLeaks reigns and Twitter becomes the new avenue to submit resignations, keeping information secret is a laughable sport. But now as the Pakistan government readies itself to probe into the matter two outcomes remain: Haqqani was definitely involved in the matter, or he wasn’t and that this whole circumstance was fabricated. The latter, if true, would show the new-age media’s strength at getting people to believe anything. But what’s more important and current is that Haqqani has resigned and how that fares as an exercise in political history.
To start is the appointment of the new Ambassador to the US herself, Sherry Rehman. Rehman has recently resurfaced since her ‘resignation’ as Minister for Information in March 2009 over conflicting views on media censorship and the reinstatement of the judiciary with President Asif Ali Zardari. But now she’s back to grab the reigns of a relationship that has never been tenser: that of the US and Pakistan. It is important to note that she has never held a position in the Foreign Services. Having said that Rehman really does have a way with words and her employment doesn’t come as a surprise, as communication is vital to this relationship and it is in this area where Haqqani sometimes lacked finesse.
Looking at resignations of recent past, earlier this month the ‘The Italian Knight’, Silvio Berlusconi had to resign as Italy’s Prime Minister, and a fairly popular one at that (having served three terms since 1994), over economic reforms and the Euro-financial fiasco. The other resignation that resonates is that of Eliot Spitzer, who resigned from Attorney General New York after allegations of his involvement in a prostitution rink became public. And then there is Japan, which has witnessed the resignations of five prime ministers in the past five years over a diverse range of politico-economic issues.
There are two common features to resignation: that of guilt and embarrassment. This is because resigning from such positions is a declaration of ineptness while the world watches. But then it makes you wonder, why do politicians resign? Well, it’s a fact that resignation is a feature that comes with democracy. The civilians and the parliament can exert enough power in a democratic system that it allows for keeping political personnel under pressure of performing. Hence, resignations show that people don’t have hegemonic tendencies to do whatever they want without being held accountable for it. And from this angle, Haqqani’s resignation seems to be a harbinger to Pakistan’s strengthening democracy.
However, there is a Catch 22: this memo concerns not the people, but the army. There are rumours that this was in fact a disposal, and not a resignation. So while we can on surface claim a democratic victory, I can’t help but question: Did Pakistan listen more to the army than her people again?