Like any publicity hound with a healthy sense of self-regard, Mansoor Ijaz could have kept his will-he-or-won’t-he charade going indefinitely. For the rest of us it is time to admit that he will not be coming to Pakistan to testify in the very case that he ignited with one newspaper column and kept fanning with daily media appearances. Finally, after weeks of bluffs and counter-offers, Mr Ijaz’s lawyer said that he and his client aren’t satisfied that security arrangements for Ijaz are sufficient as a result of which, he won’t be appearing before the judicial commission investigating the memogate case. As a US citizen, Mr Ijaz has every right to absent himself from Pakistani legal proceedings. But to continue making statements that will never face judicial scrutiny but place the government at risk is highly irresponsible at best.
Part of Mr Ijaz’s reasoning for declining to come to Pakistan is that the government has been harassing him for his decision to testify before the judicial commission. But the PPP has a solid line of argument against him. If he is appearing before the judicial commission, goes the PPP reasoning, then why can he not appear in front of a parliamentary panel investigating the same matter? For him to cherry-pick which commission he would like to speak to and which he would rather avoid, raises questions about his credibility. Now that he won’t be appearing in Pakistan at all, perhaps it is time to discount his many media statements since they will no longer be receiving the official scrutiny that they deserve. It is also worth noting that Mr Ijaz’s concerns about his personal security are overblown. The government assured him of foolproof security and with the military in his corner, the chances of any harm coming to him are miniscule. The prime minister simply said that Mr Ijaz would not be given the same level of security as that given to a visiting head of state which is a fair argument. Quite clearly, those who thought that Mr Ijaz was an attention-seeker who would not visit Pakistan will have their perceptions strengthened by his decision because their argument will be that the issue of security is a mere pretext. While the commission will now decide whether Mr Ijaz’s testimony will be recorded overseas, the fact that he has refused to come to Pakistan itself casts doubt on the integrity of any such communication from him.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 24th, 2012.