Ijaz embarrasses ISI DG, SC with fresh claims
LAHORE: The instigator of the memo case, Musawwer Mansoor Ijaz, has claimed that he has been in contact with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lt General Ahmed Shuja Pasha in connection with “logistics and security arrangements” for his testimony before the inquiry commission created by the Supreme Court.
Talking to a private television channel last Friday, Ijaz said that he had been in touch with the ISI chief after his first meeting in London on October 22, 2011. Ijaz’s claim, if true, creates doubts about his being a disinterested party only seeking to reveal the truth and raises questions about why he maintains relations with the spy agency that he has described as “a cancer” in past writings.
Mansoor Ijaz also quoted text messages and emails he exchanged with General Pasha in the letter he sent to Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on January 30, which was sealed by the chief justice in the custody of the Supreme Court Registrar.
According to sources familiar with the contents of the letter, Ijaz claimed in it that he had been informed by the ISI chief that neither the Pakistani nor the US government wanted him to travel to Pakistan to testify about the memo. Ijaz also repeated his previous claims about feeling threatened by Interior Minister Rehman Malik and the civilian government. He insisted in the letter that the Supreme Court should allow former ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani to travel abroad so that a case could be made for Mansoor Ijaz being allowed to testify overseas.
Although the chief justice sealed the letter that Mansoor Ijaz had asked to be kept secret, its contents were revealed the same day to a private television channel along with comments that Mansoor Ijaz professed that Husain Haqqani was allowed to travel abroad at Ijaz’s request. This effectively constituted an embarrassing suggestion that the Supreme Court was acting on Mansoor Ijaz’s request even though no such request was made in open court.
In his letter to the chief justice, Mansoor Ijaz also claimed that he could not travel to Pakistan for “family, business and citizenship” reasons. He said that his family did not trust security arrangements in Pakistan, which according to a text message he attributed to Gen Pasha were going to be in “other” (meaning civilian) hands. Ijaz said that his business partners, too, were pressuring him not to testify, according to the letter and the United States government was also not on his side.
The Memo Commission has now accommodated Mansoor Ijaz’s request by making the unprecedented decision of allowing him to testify by VideoLink to assist in a fact-finding exercise that does not involve a criminal trial. In the past, Pakistani courts have not used VideoLink even in serious criminal cases, such as those involving terrorism, where a witness might be a foreigner located in another country and unwilling to travel to Pakistan to give evidence.
It is significant that neither the Supreme Court nor the Memo Commission insisted on asking Mansoor Ijaz for any evidence about him feeling threatened and deemed a letter from him to the chief justice as well as arguments by his lawyer before the commission to be sufficient. Legal analysts say there is no precedent in legal history of such accommodation ever being made for a witness even after his credibility has been so widely assailed in the national and international media. In its open hearing on January 24, the Memo Commission had listed very detailed security arrangements for Mansoor Ijaz and had hinted that if he does not come to testify on February 9, then it would consider moving forward without his testimony. The head of the commission, Balochistan High Court Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, gave no explanation for changing its mind.
Sources familiar with Mansoor Ijaz’s secret letter to the Supreme Court have pointed out that while testifying by VideoLink from London deals with Mansoor Ijaz’s security concerns, it does not address his claims about likely threats to his business interests and the alleged opposition to his testifying by the United States government. If giving evidence about the memo in Islamabad would have caused political risks for his business partners because of adverse publicity and controversy, that risk will not in anyway be mitigated if Mansoor Ijaz appears before the commission by VideoLink.
Similarly, it is unlikely that any real or perceived harm to Mansoor Ijaz’s status as an American citizen within the US government will diminish just because he speaks to the Memo Commission from London rather than Islamabad. If Mansoor Ijaz testifies from London, his declarations about threats to his business and from the US authorities would be proved false.
US officials say they have had no contact with Mansoor Ijaz leading his critics to point out that his claims in this regard are just reflective of a pattern of fabrication and exaggeration aimed at feeling and acting important. The US government has consistently maintained that the memo issue is an internal matter for Pakistan even though Mansoor Ijaz is a US citizen and all the persons he dealt with in conveying the memo are Americans. The only Pakistani Mansoor Ijaz says he was in contact with about the memo, Husain Haqqani, denies any connection with the memo and so far Ijaz has produced no concrete evidence of Haqqani’s direct involvement except handwritten notes of alleged telephone conversations and BBM chat messages that do not directly discuss the memo.
Mansoor Ijaz’s statement about regular contacts with the ISI director general and his claim that the Supreme Court allowed Husain Haqqani to travel abroad only because of his suggestion are likely to increase the belief that he is an unreliable individual whose penchant for publicity and media attention overrides any concern about embarrassing institutions of state of his country (the United States) or of Pakistan.
By avoiding personal appearance before the commission in Islamabad, Mansoor Ijaz has avoided the prospect of severe cross-examination by government lawyers as well as counsel for Husain Haqqani. As the commission has declared that lawyers wishing to be present in London for cross-examination would have to do so at their own expense, the decision heavily favours Mansoor Ijaz. Cross-examination by VideoLink would not have the same effect as in-person cross-examination and would be more like a TV interview, something to which Ijaz is accustomed.
Mansoor Ijaz is required to hand over his electronic devices and any documentary evidence to the secretary of the commission who would be present in London when he testifies. But it is possible that Mansoor Ijaz might make such handover conditional because many people in the High Commission as well as the inquiry commission’s secretary could be accused of close ties to the civilian government, which he now paints as his enemy.
Mansoor Ijaz has already refused to appear before the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, which could serve legal notices on him when he comes to the Pakistan High Commission to record his evidence.
In any case, based on his affidavit before the Supreme Court, it is clear that the BlackBerry devices only contain numbers and durations of phone calls as well as innocuous BBM messages, mostly from Ijaz to Haqqani, with no direct reference to the memo. They do not constitute evidence on their own except in conjunction with explanations by Mansoor Ijaz, which Husain Haqqani is likely to deny and which may also be rebutted in VideoLink testimony by US General James Jones (through whom Mansoor Ijaz transmitted his memo) and Admiral Michael Mullen, who received the memo and dismissed it as lacking credibility.
Having granted Mansoor Ijaz the right to testify by VideoLink, it would be difficult for the inquiry commission to deny the same right to any number of foreign witnesses. This could include US officials, journalists and personal acquaintances who would address the issue of Mansoor Ijaz’s credibility, including his former spouses and persons with whom he has been involved in business disputes or litigation.
Courtesy: Daily Times