ISLAMABAD: Key witness of the Memogate scandal, Mansoor Ijaz is to appear before the judicial commission tasked with probing the controversy on January 24.
Assurances in this regard were provided by Ijaz’s counsel, Akram Sheikh, during the probe’s third sitting on Monday at the Islamabad High Court building. The commission comprises chief justices from the Balochistan, Sindh and Islamabad High Courts.
However, Sheikh added that his client and his family have reservations over their security while in Pakistan and believe they may not be allowed to return home. He sought an adjournment of the hearing until the Pakistani-American businessman appears before the commission to provide his testimony. Haqqani’s counsel opposed the adjournment, however, and requested that Ijaz should not be allowed to return until the commission concludes its proceedings. Justice Qazi Faez Isa asked him to file the application before the Supreme Court.
When asked by Justice Isa, “When will [Ijaz] come, we are running short of time,” Sheikh replied that his client has applied for a visa in Pakistan’s consulate in Bern, Switzerland. He added that Ijaz would ‘hopefully’ be granted a visa within two days, however, his schedule could not be disclosed.
Quoting Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s recent press conference, Sheikh contended the government was planning to book his client on the charge of high treason upon arrival. He pointed specifically to an application filed by a Pakistan Peoples Party activist in a district court for the registration of an FIR against Ijaz. Attorney General Pakistan (AGP) Maulvi Anwarul Haq, however, denied the allegation.
As far as the response of BlackBerry company Research in Motion (RIM) is concerned, the AGP informed the commission that the company has refused to provide access to data on Hussain Haqqani’s cell phones, on the grounds that policy dictates that only requests made by the users themselves can be entertained.
Jusice Isa asked of the former ambassador to the US’s counsel, Zahid Bukhari, why his client had not surrendered his privacy right after Ijaz had done the same. Bukhari contended that surrendering privacy rights was not mandatory.
Bukhari also told the commission that Haqqani sent an application to the AGP for the recovery of his BlackBerrys from Washington, upon which the AGP informed the commission that the phones had not been found. He added, however, that necessary email addresses and phone numbers could be provided to the commission.
‘Ijaz getting undue priority’
Haqqani’s counsel also objected to Ijaz’s absence before the commission, saying he was a foreign national who was being given undue priority over his client. He requested the commission to first collect all evidence against his client, after which he could respond to all allegations. Bukhari added, indignantly, that the commission accepted all of Ijaz’s terms but had yet not appeared before the commission. The memo was a conspiracy against the incumbent democratic government, the counsel said angrily, adding that there was no evidence of the memo and the issue had only become prominent on the basis of news articles.
Tensions increased during the meeting as Sheikh said Ijaz was being sent threatening emails from Haqqani’s email address, although he was careful to avoid saying Haqqani himself was threatening his client.
What lies ahead for the commission
The commission was informed that Advocate Tariq Asad, one of the petitioners, has submitted a list of his witnesses including the names of Brigadier (Retd) Imtiaz and Lt Gen (Retd) Javed Ashraf Qazi. It also took up the application of PPP activist Khalid Javed, who requested that an FIR be registered against Ijaz.
Advocate Raja Israr Abbasi, counsel of petitioner, requested the commission to pass an order for the registration of an FIR on the grounds of Ijaz ‘violating the Constitution’. He added that the January 9 order of the commission had deprived the petitioner of his legal right.
After Abbasi was unable to prove which newspaper Ijaz had written articles in against the army and state institutions, Justice Isa admonished him and asked whether the petitioner had been requested by a political party to file this application or in his own personal capacity. The judge added sternly ‘PPP is mature enough to make better decisions itself,’ and that the petitioner was using the PPP’s name for ‘mere publicity’.
Parliamentary committee steps in
After adjourning the hearing till January 24, the commission also ordered Ijaz, Haqqani and Inter-Services Intelligence director general Shuja Pasha to file their statements by January 23. The Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) has also asked all three to file statements on the same day before the committee.
The PCNS meeting was held under the chairmanship of Senator Raza Rabbani, who summoned Ijaz to appear before the committee on January 26. Rabbani said that a notice would be sent to Ijaz through the Pakistani Embassy.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 17th, 2012.