New York:  Over a dozen Pakistani scholars in the US have written to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressing concern over the "safety and well-being" of embattled former Pakistani ambassador Hussain Haqqani, who has said he fears for his life in the wake of the memo scandal.
   
The scholars, from prestigious US institutes like Brookings Institution, Heritage Foundation and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, have urged Clinton that the US government "should do all it can" to ensure Haqqani's case is handled with "due process without any threat of physical harm".
   
"We would urge the US government to continue to weigh in with key Pakistani leaders and to make appropriate public statements to ensure that Hussain Haqqani is not physically harmed and that due process of law is followed," the scholars said in the letter.
   
The 55-year-old former journalist and Boston University professor, Haqqani is confined to the residence of Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani as he remains entangled in a legal battle over a controversial memo.
   
"I can go out for a walk, but it is essentially like a house arrest," Haqqani said in a New York Times report.     "I cannot remain in this limbo forever... I would like to get my life back," he said.
   
Haqqani says the threats to his life are two-fold.
   
Given the hysteria surrounding the memo and the anti- American sentiment in the country, he fears that a security guard might pull a gun on him and he will meet the fate of his friend Salman Taseer, the former governor of Punjab province, who was killed by his police guard last January.
   
Secondly, Asma Jahangir, who represented Haqqani in Supreme Court hearings in December, said that the Pakistan's main spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, "might pick him up and torture him," the NYT report said.
   
Haqqani has said he chose to return to Pakistan fully aware that he was putting himself in a perilous and uncertain situation.
   
"Had I not returned, given the murky and volatile political environment, I would have been deemed or described as guilty," he said.
   
According to the NYT report, Haqqani has limited the number of foreign visitors to avoid raising alarm and fueling accusations by his critics.
   
He spends his days reading, conferring with his lawyers, and using his laptop and cellphone to keep in contact with his wife and children.
 
In the letter to Clinton, the scholars said they were concerned over Haqqani's safety and well-being, adding that the fact that Haqqani was forced to surrender his passport, despite returning to Pakistan voluntarily to face the charges, is particularly troubling.
   
"The case against Haqqani follows an ominous trend in Pakistan. The assassinations of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, and journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad this past year have created a culture of intimidation and fear that is stifling efforts to promote a more tolerant and democratic society," they said in the letter.
   
They said while they may not have always agreed with Haqqani's views, "we regarded him as an effective presenter of Pakistani positions in the Washington context".
   
In keeping with its traditional support for human rights and its deep interest in a firmly democratic Pakistan, the US government should do all it can to ensure Haqqani receives due process without any threat of physical harm.
   
The letter has been signed by scholars like Stephen Cohen from the Brookings Institution, Lisa Curtis of Heritage Foundation, Sadanand Dhume of American Enterprise Institute, Toby Dalton of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, C Christine Fair of Georgetown University, Dennis Kux of Woodrow Wilson International Centre and Aparna Pande from the Hudson Institute.

(Agencies)