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Resignation a Sign of Strengthening Democracy

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Ambassador Haqqani's resignation Tuesday morning launched a flurry of reactions and speculations in Pakistan. Many believed their worst fears were coming true -- either the military was attempting a coup, or the civilians were. But as the hours passed, things began to calm down and what many believed were the first signs of cracks in the foundation of democracy may have actually been signs of the strengthening democracy in Pakistan.

The op-ed that sparked the memogate controversy was actually published over a month ago, and it was hardly news until a month later when the author began publishing what he claims are private communications between himself and a Pakistani official. In fact, so little credence was given to the American businessman's story that he was forced to continue making more and more statements to the press to keep the story alive.

When an American foreign policy journal reported that Admiral Mullen denied any knowledge of the memo, the story appeared to be all but over. The story was revived a week later, however, when Admiral Mullen stated that, after being contacted by the media, he went back and looked through some records and found a copy of the document in his files. He explained that he had forgotten the unsigned memo because he "did not find it at all credible and took no note of it then or later".

But by this point, the genie was out of the bottle and our hyperactive media had gone into overdrive. Talk shows ran rampant with speculation, and the American businessman finally found himself in the limelight. A few days later, he named Husain Haqqani as the official connected with the memo, adding that he decided to publicly expose the alleged scheme in order to protect Admiral Mullen's feelings from criticism by the Pakistani media.

At that point, Ambassador Haqqani contacted the president and prime minister and offered to voluntarily resign his position as he did not want the accusations to be a "distraction from the major challenges facing our country and our government." His offer was not determined to be necessary at the time, but over the next several days the controversy began to spiral out of control in the media, and all manner of allegations began to be floated against both the civilian and the military branches of government.

Despite there being no clear evidence that anyone but the American was responsible for the memo, the issue had clearly become a distraction, and Ambassador Haqqani's offer to resign was accepted so that a transparent inquiry could be conducted and the nation could move on.

In an email to Yahoo! News, Ambassador Haqqani explained his resignation saying, that he "resigned to bring closure to this meaningless controversy threatening our fledgling democracy," and noted that "A transparent inquiry will strengthen the hands of elected leaders whom I strived to empower." Haqqani went on to say that, "Pakistan and Pakistan's democracy are far more important than any artificially created crisis" noting that he has "served Pakistan and Pakistani democracy to the best of my ability and will continue to do so."

Husain Haqqani has a strong history of supporting democracy in Pakistan. After serving as an advisor to democratically-elected Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, he taught International Relations at America's Boston University and became a well-known figure in Washington as a voice for allowing Pakistani democracy to strengthen and grow without interference from other countries. He became well known for urging American officials to have patience with Pakistan, arguing that "democracy has to run its course."

Ironically, the fallout from the present controversy actually shows signs that hopes for a democratic Pakistan are coming true. Despite the fact that this storm of controversy touched some of the nation's most sensitive subjects, the military has yet to validate fears of another 'palace coup', and the civilian government has so far responded to the controversy maturely by calmly initiating a transparent and unbiased inquiry to get to the facts of the matter. Previous governments have fallen under much less pressure.

Contrary to the rather slanderous speculation by some in the media, when the controversy reached a fevered pitch, Husain Haqqani returned to Islamabad as quickly as possible and turned over his Blackberry and computer for forensic investigation. His wife has stated that they are exploring legal responses to allegations against her husband. Though it must be a difficult time for him, Haqqani promises to continue his work to strengthen Pakistan's democracy. "I have much to contribute to building a new Pakistan free of bigotry & intolerance," he wrote on Twitter. "Will focus energies on that." Thanks to a strengthening democratic system, it looks like he'll get to do just that.

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