By Missy Ryan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senior Pakistani officials will meet in Islamabad Tuesday with their envoy to the United States as controversy mounts over a mysterious memo that underscores the fraught ties between Pakistan's civilian and military leaders.
A former U.S. government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's influential ambassador in Washington, would meet one on one in Islamabad with intelligence chief Lieutenant-General Ahmed Shuja Pasha.
Days after offering to resign, Haqqani will also meet with President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, Pasha, and army boss General Ashfaq Kayani, arguably the country's most powerful man, in a separate meeting that could determine whether the diplomat keeps his job, the former official said.
The high-level deliberations highlight the tensions between Pakistan's powerful military and its weak civilian government -- and how those pressures crop up in the strained U.S.-Pakistan relationship.
Civilian-military rivalries, a fact of Pakistani life since the nation's inception in 1947, were exacerbated this year by the unilateral U.S. raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May, humiliating Pakistan's military and, some believe, offering an opportunity for those who would like to see the civilian government exert greater control.
Haqqani, close to Zardari and estranged from Pakistan's military, has became visibly embroiled in that divide in the weeks following the appearance of a column in the Financial Times in which a Pakistani-American businessman said he delivered a memo to the Pentagon containing a plea for U.S. help in staving off a military coup.
Businessman Mansoor Ijaz said a top Pakistani diplomat -- whom he later identified as Haqqani -- had asked him for help in getting a message purportedly from Zardari to Admiral Mike Mullen, the then-chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Haqqani has denied involvement in the memo -- and many Pakistan watchers in Washington have raised doubts about Ijaz's credibility -- but Haqqani has offered to resign as the affair known as 'memo-gate' snowballs in Pakistan.
Zardari's government has promised a thorough investigation of the memo, which Mullen's office acknowledged he received but said he dismissed as lacking credibility.
It is unclear if Zardari will accept the resignation offer from Haqqani, a former journalist and author known for his high-level access in Washington.
Haqqani's tenure has included some of the most tense moments in relations between the two countries, including the bin Laden raid and Mullen's accusation that Pakistani intelligence had backed a militant attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
The diplomat met Friday with Marc Grossman, the State Department official who is Obama's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, before he returned to Pakistan, a senior State Department official said.
"Haqqani is not your average career diplomat. He's quite a player," said Kamran Bokhari, Middle East and South Asia vice president at STRATFOR intelligence firm.
Other Pakistan watchers, however, said Haqqani's effectiveness had been limited by that very closeness to Zardari and his strained relationship with military leaders who have at times tried to shut him out of U.S.-Pakistan dealings.
If he leaves, a successor might include a diplomat with a less complicated relationship with the military, perhaps Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir or Pakistan's envoy to the United Nations, Hussain Haroon.
Bokhari suggested the flurry of high-level meetings in Islamabad may mean the Pakistani military will not push for the removal of a Zardari ally in part because the military-civilian balance was changing, if gradually.
"The army's monopoly on foreign policy decision-making is not what it used be," he said, following the rise of Pakistan's judiciary and civil society in recent years and after the unprecedented public outcry over the bin Laden raid.
"The civilian class is no longer a pushover," Bokhari said. "That doesn't mean they've gotten the upper hand, but they have some room to maneuver."
(Reporting by Missy Ryan; Editing by Peter Cooney)