KARACHI: Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz, who is at the centre of the Memogate scandal with Ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani, has alleged that he has known the ambassador for more than 11-12 years and that his claims of having met him three or four times were a “flat lie”.
In an exclusive interview with Express 24/, Ijaz said that he had developed closer ties with the ambassador during the last two or three years.
Speaking on the Memogate scandal, Ijaz said that the people of Pakistan had to ask themselves why such a herculean effort was being made to cover it all up.
“Why is it that every lie that has been told so far has been recanted? Why is it that Haqqani orchestrated the denial from the foreign office and when that failed he tried it through the presidency?”
Who ordered the memo?
Ijaz said that it was a “conspiracy of the making of Haqqani and his boss or his bosses”. Responding to a question on who was “minding” Haqqani, Ijaz said that President Asif Ali Zardari was involved, who now had esteemed advice from lawyers in the US and Pakistan.
“There is a desperate attempt going on in Pakistan to create a firewall inside the PPP (Pakistan Peoples Party) government between Haqqani and the president.”
Ijaz said that it was his view that the president had explained his problem to Haqqani after the May 1 raid in Abbottabad and that Haqqani had given his assurance that he would “take care of it”.
“I do not believe today that Zardari had any knowledge of the specifics of the memo… I do believe he gave a blanket approval to Haqqani”. Ijaz alleged that Haqqani was not in Washington DC when the raid had taken place.
‘Haqqani not working for Foreign Office or Prime Minister’
Ijaz said there was “factual data” that showed Haqqani was not working for the Foreign Office or Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, and that was unclear who he was working for.
“It is very clear Zardari is giving the orders but the question is where are the instructions to Zardari coming from?”
He said that the president did not have the “intellectual capability” to execute this type of operation and that Haqqani did.
Ijaz said that the objective of the memo was to get Mullen to make a call to Kayani, a private chat between two army chiefs to say that “let’s take stock of the situation and calm everyone down”. He said that the objective had been achieved and that the feedback from both side was the same.
‘No one can challenge my facts’
“They can run and hide all they want to, the facts are already there.”
Ijaz said that he had become an “instrument of transparency” for the press of Pakistan after the memo was made a big issue. “Nobody can challenge my facts,” he added.
He said Haqqani had used him because he was a “plausibly deniable” person.
Ijaz said the first call from Haqqani had come at 12:30pm on May 9. He said he had gone to three people, one of them – a senior politician -had said that he would not help out unless Zardari had sent the memo on his own letterhead signed.
He said the option of delivering the message verbally was also there, but the option was too soft for him. “If things went wrong, I would be the only one who would get burned.”
Ijaz revealed that his wife was in the room when the calls were taking place and that she was on the phone to confirm to his interlocutor that the call with Haqqani had taken place.
“I am shocked the government of Pakistan is hell bent on covering this up”. He said the government should own up to the memo and say “damn right we wrote the memo, because we were afraid that the boots were coming.”
Mansoor ready to testify in Pakistan
Responding to a question on when he would go to Pakistan, he said he did not care who called him as long as it was an official process that called and that he would come tomorrow if they asked.
Ijaz said he had not been asked by Mullen to defend him and that he did not know him.
He said Pakistanis did not look at the facts and went ahead and believed everything, and that the Pakistani press reaction was critical to the Pakistan-US relationship and they instead chose to “lambast” Mullen.
On the petition filed in Pakistan to declare Mullen and himself persona non grata on Pakistani soil, he said it was the “idiocy” of the people with small minds in Pakistan, who don’t have the capacity to understand what the problem is.
He said Pakistan needed someone who understood the plight of the people. “You need a Nelson Mandela figure in Pakistan,” he added.
A silver lining to Memogate?
He said the Army and ISI, who were dominant first, would now become equal with the civilian setup. Ijaz said the civilian side would raise and strengthen itself and hold its own people accountable, and that he saw a bright future coming out of this.