ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Supreme Court set up a judicial commission Friday to investigate a secret memo scandal that threatens the Pakistani government, dealing a blow to the country’s leaders who have argued that such a probe is unnecessary, lawyers said.
Pakistan’s leaders have suggested that the government’s opponents on the Supreme Court, in the army and in the political opposition are using the scandal as a way to topple the country’s leadership.
The political crisis centers on a memo sent to Washington in May, asking for help in stopping a supposed army coup following the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
The memo was allegedly crafted by Pakistan’s former ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, with the support of President Asif Ali Zardari. Both Haqqani and Zardari have denied the allegations, but the envoy resigned in the wake of the scandal.
The army, which has denied it ever intended to carry out a coup, was outraged by the memo and supported the Supreme Court’s investigation.
The government argued that a court probe was unnecessary because parliament was the more appropriate forum and was already looking into the matter.
“This is the most disappointing judgment,” said Haqqani’s lawyer, Asma Jehangir, after the Supreme Court ruling. “National security has been given priority over human rights.”
There is long-standing tension between Pakistan’s military and its civilian leadership because the army has staged a series of coups and ruled the country for much of its 64-year history.
The Supreme Court decided to set up a three-judge commission to investigate the memo scandal in response to a petition filed by a group of opposition politicians, including opposition leader and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The commission will be led by the chief justice of the Baluchistan high court, Qazi Faez Eisa, and must deliver its report within four weeks, said Zafar Ullah, Sharif’s lawyer.
“We should have trust and confidence in this commission,” said Ishaq Dar, a member of Sharif’s political party and another one of the petitioners.
The political crisis comes at a time when Pakistan is facing a violent Taliban insurgency, a stuttering economy and troubled relations with its most important ally, the United States.
A bomb exploded outside a market in a Taliban stronghold in northwestern Pakistan on Friday, killing two people, said Tariq Khan, a local government administrator.
The apparent target of the attack in the Bajur tribal area was a member of an anti-Taliban militia. He was killed, as well as a passer-by, said Khan.
Associated Press writer Anwarullah Khan contributed to this report from Khar, Pakistan.