ISLAMABAD: The battle lines appear to have been drawn. The embittered government is in no mood to go down without a fight. On Monday it hit back at the military in the Memogate scandal, squarely blaming the army and intelligence chiefs for “keeping Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in the dark” on the issue.
In an affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court, the government dismissed as a ‘pack of lies’ the statement made by Mansoor Ijaz, the American businessman of Pakistani origin who has been at the heart of the memo row, and endorsed the reply submitted by former Pakistani ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani.
Haqqani had rubbished Ijaz’s claim and denied having any link with the memo.
In their statements, army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and ISI Director General Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha had confirmed the ‘existence’ of the secret memo which the army chief said was an attempt to demoralise the armed forces and therefore needs to be investigated.
On December 19, a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court had asked the government to file an affidavit – accepting or denying the statements of Gen Kayani, Lt Gen Pasha, Ijaz and Haqqani.
In the affidavit, submitted to the apex court through the interior ministry, Interior Secretary Khwaja Siddique Akbar stated that Gen Kayani has confirmed learning of the memo issue from Lt Gen Pasha in a meeting on October 24, 2011.
“No reason has been mentioned anywhere as to why it took so long to report to the prime minister in a case where according to the respondent [the army chief] himself, time was of the essence,” the affidavit read.
Referring to the meeting between Lt Gen Pasha and Ijaz, the affidavit stated that the former shirked his duty by briefing Gen Kayani instead of the country’s chief executive on the matter. “However, respondent [Pasha] is fully aware as to whom he is liable to report under relevant law and rules,” it read.
To the army chief’s statement, the government said Pakistan is lucky to have the eighth largest army of the world, comprising valiant men and women. “Therefore, no one can weaken the morale of Pakistan’s armed forces and certainly not the alleged memo which is not worth even the paper on which it was printed while being downloaded,” the affidavit read.
The government also said the sacrifices of Pakistan’s armed forces for the country’s security, territorial integrity and sovereignty are unprecedented.
“Similarly, the people of Pakistan and their democratically elected representatives took the brunt of every aggression equally on their chests, and children, women, students and common citizens, including Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, laid down their lives to defend their homeland fearlessly,” it added.
In response to the army chief’s plea for an inquiry into the Memogate controversy, the government said, “All the facts and circumstances are being probed into by the parliamentary committee on national security. The committee has representation from all political parties of the country, and as mandated by both the houses of parliament is examining the facts and circumstances of the matter.”
Referring to Mansoor Ijaz’s write-up in The Financial Times, the affidavit said that the government as well as the presidency have already issued denial of the contents of the article published on October 10, 2011.
“It is the stance of the federation that the federal government [including the constitutional head of the state, the constitutional chief executive of the country or any other component of the federal government] has neither conceptualised nor initiated or in any manner has anything to do with the alleged memo or the allegation or views expressed therein,” it said.
The Supreme Court is set to take up the statements of all the parties, including the government’s rebuttal submitted through the interior ministry, on Tuesday. The court is seized of the maintainability of the petitions in the memo case.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 27th, 2011.