ISLAMABAD: A fast-paced day of proceedings by the Memogate commission saw a number of interesting developments on Monday – including an exchange between former ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani and the counsel for principal accuser Mansoor Ijaz over access to data regarding their alleged conversations on the issue.
The proceedings held at the Islamabad High Court, which went well into the evening, saw a number of appearances, including by Haqqani and Nawaz Sharif, and fresh statements by the respondents, including spy chief Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha and army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
Access to phone chats
In the midst of Haqqani’s testimony, Ijaz’s lawyer, Akram Sheikh, intervened, requesting the Supreme Court-mandated judicial commission to ask Haqqani to provide a waiver of privacy rights and submit his personal identification numbers of two BlackBerry phones, similar to what his client has submitted before the commission.
However, the former ambassador did not commit immediately, replying that due to the rush that he had left for Pakistan in, he had forgotten his old BlackBerry in his office in Washington DC, adding that he had changed phones and was now using a newer BlackBerry model.
As Sheikh zeroed-in to this non-committal, Zahid Bukhari (Haqqani’s counsel) brought in a new objection, saying “the counsel is representing Mansoor Ijaz without signing power of attorney (POA) and affidavits with Ijaz which is equivalent to forgery”.
“What if tomorrow Mansoor Ijaz refuses to accept everything, the learned counsel is stating here,” Bukhari added in a successful attempt to protect his cornered client.
“First he (Ijaz) may appear, give his testimony and evidence to the commission, then we will give our waiver and everything,” Bukhari contended.
Sheikh submitted that he has signed a power of attorney with his client and submitted it to the commission – however, since it was an electronic copy, he said he would have to submit a notarised one to the commission later.
A forensic expert of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Ali Imran also gave his testimony while briefing the commission about retrieving data from cell phones.
The commission observed that the attorney-general had contacted Research in Motion (RIM), the Canadian company that runs the highly-encrypted BlackBerry server, for data exchanged between Haqqani and Ijaz, but no response was received. However, a focal person appointed by secretary cabinet Nargis Sethi, Brigadier Zulfiqar, informed that RIM could be contacted through the Canadian High Commission for provision of data.
Following Haqqani’s statements, a forensic expert from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Commander Khalid Habib briefed the commission about the possibility of retrieving BlackBerry messages allegedly sent between the pair.
‘I didn’t do it’
Aside from the sole slipup, Haqqani struck a bold tone before the commission.
“I had no role in creating, drafting and/or delivering the memorandum,” Haqqani said, adding that he had no knowledge of the origin, authenticity or purpose of the said memo.
“I was falsely accused in the media and [by] Ijaz of being the person that communicated the contents of the memo,” said Haqqani, dressed in a grey suit with a Pakistan flag pin on his lapel.
Army security for Ijaz?
“Death threats have been received by Mansoor Ijaz through email,” Ijaz’s lawyer told the commission. Addressing Sheikh’s concern, the commission ordered Attorney General Maulvi Anwraul Haq to provide tight security for Ijaz upon his arrival in Pakistan.
“Army security can also be provided on request,” the commission ordered. Sheikh said Ijaz would appear for the next hearing.
Sheikh also alleged that Ijaz had been denied a visa and that the government was trying to implicate him in false cases.
However, the legal representative of the ministry of foreign affairs Sher Bahadur and the attorney-general submitted that Ijaz had not yet applied for a visa. Furthermore, the attorney-general also assured the commission that if Ijaz did not violate or breach any laws, no case would be registered against him – and if so the matter will be immediately brought to the Supreme Court.
The commission ordered Pakistan’s embassies in London and Bern to issue a visa for Ijaz “without any condition” so that he could appear at the hearing.
ISI chief’s request denied
Meanwhile, the ISI chief’s request to give the commission an in camera briefing was turned down by Justice Qazi Faiz Isa, who said that any sensitive information should be provided in a sealed envelope first.
“We will see after receiving this envelope that which part of the information is sensitive and what should be made public,” Isa said.
Chief of Army Staff Gen Kayani in a written statement, given through the attorney-general, told the commission that his statement was the same as the one he had presented to the Supreme Court in the case’s initial proceedings. He said that he was unable to appear in person because he was in China on an official trip – but pledged to appear before the commission upon his return if needed.
The hearing was adjourned until Monday, January 16 with the order to convene meetings on a day-to-day basis from then onwards.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 10th, 2012.