In the months following the Abbottabad raid, Islamabad was abuzz with rumours that the PPP-led coalition government was scrambling to save itself from an impending military coup. The claims made by Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz in a now notorious op-ed, have now been denied, in the first official US comment on the memo, the Foreign Policy magazine reported in an exclusive given by The Cable.
In his op-ed in the Financial Times, Ijaz had alleged that President Asif Ali Zardari had offered to replace Pakistan’s military and intelligence leadership and cut ties with militant groups in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s killing in Abbottabad. Ijaz also alleged that Zardari communicated this offer by sending a top secret memo on May 10 through Ijaz himself, to be hand-delivered to Adm Michael Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In comments given to The Cable, Mullen’s spokesperson at the time, Capt John Kirby denied the claims made by Ijaz, saying Mullen did not know Ijaz and had no recollection of receiving any correspondence from him.
“I cannot say definitively that correspondence did not come from him -- the admiral received many missives as chairman from many people every day, some official, some not. But he does not recall one from this individual. And in any case, he did not take any action with respect to our relationship with Pakistan based on any such correspondence ... preferring to work at the relationship directly through Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and inside the interagency process.”
Several parts of the civilian government denied that Ijaz’s memorandum ever existed. On Oct 30, presidential spokesperson Farhatullah Babar called Ijaz’s op-ed a “fantasy article” and criticised the newspaper for running it in the first place.
“Mansoor Ijaz’s allegation is nothing more than a desperate bid by an individual, whom recognition and credibility has eluded, to seek media attention through concocted stories,” Babar said. “Why would the president of Pakistan choose a private person of questionable credentials to carry a letter to US officials? Since when has Mansoor become a courier of messages of the president of Pakistan?”
On Oct 31, Ijaz issued a lengthy statement in which he reiterated his claims and threatened to reveal the “senior Pakistani official” that purportedly sent him on his mission. Ijaz went as far as to quote Gordon Gekko from the movie Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, telling Zardari and his staff, “If you stop telling lies about me, I might just stop telling the truth about you.”
However, a deeper look into Ijaz’s background provides evidence that this hasn’t been the first time the influential businessman has raised controversy concerning his alleged role as a secret international diplomat. In 1996, he was accused of trying to extort money from the Pakistani government in exchange for delivering votes in the US House of Representatives on a Pakistan-related trade provision.
Ijaz, who runs the firm Crescent Investment Management LLC in New York, has been an interlocutor between US officials and foreign government for years, amid constant accusations of financial conflicts of interest. He reportedly arranged meetings between US officials and former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.
He also reportedly gave over $1 million to Democratic politicians in the 1990s and attended Christmas events at former President Bill Clinton’s White House. Ijaz has ties to former CIA Director James Woolsey and his investment firm partner is Reagan administration official James Alan Abrahamson.
Attempts to reach Ijaz for comment the magazine were unsuccessful.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 10th, 2011.