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Ex-Pakistani envoy fears for his life amid probe

Pakistan's former ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, center, exits the Supreme Court after meeting his lawyer in the secret memo scandal case in Islamabad Dec. 22, 2011.
AFP/Getty Images
Pakistan's former ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, center, exits the Supreme Court after meeting his lawyer in the secret memo scandal case in Islamabad Dec. 22, 2011.
Pakistan's former ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, center, exits the Supreme Court after meeting his lawyer in the secret memo scandal case in Islamabad Dec. 22, 2011.
AFP/Getty Images

ISLAMABAD - A year after a prominent Pakistani politician was killed by a bodyguard-turned-Islamic-zealot, the country's former ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, said in a CBS News interview that the threat he faces resembles the threat that targeted the late leader.

Haqqani resigned as Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S. following the eruption of a controversy stemming from claims that he passed a memo on his government's behalf to U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, who retired as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September.

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The controversial memo allegedly sought U.S. pressure on Pakistan's army in the days following last year's raid on Osama bin Laden in the country's northern city of Abbottabad. Haqqani has denied the claim against him while U.S. officials have said Mullen did not consider the correspondence to be serious enough to pursue further.

Yet, in the nuclear-armed South Asian country, a key U.S. ally for efforts to stabilize Afghanistan, the so-called "memogate" scandal has unleashed vociferous criticism of the government by its opponents. Last week, Pakistan's Supreme Court ordered the establishment of a high-powered judicial commission to investigate the allegations within a month.

Speaking to CBS News Thursday, Haqqani vigorously defended his record.

"I have not been charged with any crime, and yet I have been painted through a sinister media campaign as somebody who may have committed treason against Pakistan," he said.

Haqqani said that allegations surrounding his involvement in the memo controversy had created a situation similar to that of Salman Taseer, the politician killed here Jan. 4, 2011, by one of his police bodyguards.

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Taseer, governor of the populous Punjab province and a close friend of President Asif Ali Zardari, was targeted by the policeman for defending a Christian woman accused under Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law.

"He ended up believing that he (Taseer) was a blasphemer," Haqqani said.

Fears for his life had forced Haqqani to practically take refuge at the official residence of Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, from where he spoke on the phone with CBS News.

The pressure, said Haqqani, "creates a very nasty situation for me ... I feel more secure here."

Though Haqqani did not say who he specifically fears, his comments came amid widespread speculation of a growing rift between Pakistan's powerful army and the country's top intelligence service and their civilian rulers. Analysts say the memo controversy has sharpened the divide between the army and elected politicians.

"Pakistan has a long history of an entrenched machinery within the state and outside of the state apparatus that has a very limited view of what it means to be a patriotic Pakistani," said Haqqani. "I believe that it's those elements that have been targeting me."

Western diplomats said it was still early to predict Haqqani's fate or indeed the extent to which the controversy may destabilize Pakistan at a time when the country faces a number of difficult challenges.

For the United States, stability inside Pakistan remains pivotal to ensuring Islamabad's continued cooperation for carrying forward a credible peace process in Afghanistan.

"The danger for Pakistan is," said one senior western diplomat who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity, "that if the civil-military divide sharpens at this time, Pakistan will not be able to focus on efforts to stabilize Afghanistan."