Islamabad: Pakistan’s information minister withdrew her resignation on Sunday, hours after she offered to quit amid tensions between the civilian government and the country’s powerful military over a memo alleging an army plot to seize power in May.
Information minister Firdos Ashiq Awan made the surprise announcement at a televised cabinet meeting but Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani later persuaded her to withdraw resignation.
A file photo of Pakistan’s President AsifAli Zaradi (AP)
“The prime minister tore down my resignation and asked me to continue my work,” information minister Firdos Ashiq Awan told reporters after the cabinet meeting.
Some media reports suggested that Awan offered to resign over criticism within the ruling party over her perceived failure to defend the government in the “memogate” scandal, as it is being called in Pakistan.
Tensions have been running high between the government and the powerful army after the scandal surfaced, raising concerns for the region and for Pakistan’s already uneasy relationship with its key ally, the United States.
Mansoor Ijaz, an American businessman of Pakistan origin, wrote in a column in the Financial Times on 10 Oct that a senior Pakistani diplomat had asked that a memo be delivered to the Pentagon with a plea for US help to stave off a military coup in the days after the raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May.
Ijaz later identified the diplomat as Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani, who denied involvement but resigned over the controversy.
The scandal has reached a fever pitch, and rumours have swirled in recent weeks that President Asif Ali Zardari, who left Pakistan for medical treatment in Dubai earlier this month, would be forced out by the military, which has ruled Pakistan for almost half of its 64-year history.
Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani has ruled out the possibility of a coup and the military does not want to be seen as interfering in civilian politics, but there are still several scenarios under which Zardari could be forced out.
The military could use its extensive influence to isolate Zardari, or offer him an honourable exit by guaranteeing he will not face prosecution on long-standing corruption charges.
Kayani has already called for an investigation into who may have been behind the memo which could further undermine the deeply unpopular Zardari.
The Supreme Court is looking into a petition demanding an inquiry into the matter.