Memogate commission: Frenzied first day sees spate of orders, questions

Published: January 2, 2012
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Commission, in first meeting, asks attorney general to contact RIM to obtain BlackBerry conversations.

Commission, in first meeting, asks attorney general to contact RIM to obtain BlackBerry conversations.

ISLAMABAD: With only four weeks to complete investigations, time is of the essence for a judicial commission formed to probe the Memogate scandal.

Day one of the commission’s proceedings, held at the Islamabad High Court building, saw a flurry of activity – portraying the sense of pressure involved in the exercise.

Headed by Balochistan High Court (BHC) Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, the three-member commission gave a number of orders and sent out a spate of notices to all respondents of the case for January 9.

Within this time, it has sought the equipment used to communicate over, and then send, the memo in question and also ordered that message records be requested from Research in Motion (RIM) – the Canada-based service provider of BlackBerry Messenger, through which Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz and former ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani allegedly exchanged messages regarding the memo.

In the meantime, it has summoned the two for the next date of hearing, too.

It was also ordered that a notice be issued, through the interior secretary, to the local representative of RIM to provide an expert who will be able to recover and decode data from the equipment used by the two. On the other hand, to verify the authenticity of the data, the commission has sought assistance from the ministry of information technology and Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA).

The commission directed the cabinet secretary Nargis Sethi to appoint a secretary as the commission’s focal person to ensure immediate compliance of commission’s directives – given the short timeframe it has to complete investigations.

Meanwhile, it has summoned Haqqani on the next date of hearing and repeated notices to all respondents of the case.

The first day’s proceedings, attended by the Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Maulvi Anwarul Haq, the cabinet and foreign secretaries as well as a representative of the ministry of foreign affairs Sher Bahadur Khan, also saw a number of issues come to light.

Foremost among these was how to treat former US national security adviser James Jones, the man who delivered the controversial memo, and the then US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen, who is the supposed addressee of the document. The court inquired whether Jones ought to be treated as a witness or a party to the case.

According to the AGP, both Jones and Ijaz had been sent notices through the Pakistani mission in Washington – however he cannot confirm whether the two have received the notices. Sher Bahadur Khan assured the commission that the same route was used to deliver the court’s notices earlier, and both had responded.

About Mullen, the AGP contended that the former US military chief was not witness hence he did not need to be sent a notice — however, he can be summoned if required or if he wanted to record his statement. The AGP also said that any other person who wants to record their statement before the commission should be allowed to – even if it is in-camera. However, Justice Isa said that the proceedings should be open to dispel any misgivings – but added that any specific requests for an in-camera statement can be considered.

Justice Isa also had a number of questions for the foreign office. To a query, Bashir said that the foreign office had not conducted any in-house inquiry into the matter. Bashir was also asked if the ambassadors’ daily appointments and meetings are recorded – to which he replied in the affirmative, adding that periodic reports in this regard are prepared.

On whether such a report was compiled for Haqqani, Bashir said that he could find out – and added that Haqqani himself would be a good person to be asked this question.

Haqqani himself was not present during Monday’s proceedings – nor was any lawyer there on his behalf, given that his previous counsel Asma Jahangir had resigned in protest over the Supreme Court’s decision to form this commission. The AGP said that notices had been sent to all concerned parties for Monday’s proceedings.

The commission said that if Haqqani could not appear in person, he should hire a lawyer immediately.

Justice Isa said that the Supreme Court had already explained the scope of the commission in its order, and the commission could not keep sending notices since the apex court had given them only four weeks to conclude proceedings.

The next date of proceedings is January 9.

(Read: A story on memogate)

Published in The Express Tribune, January 3rd, 2012.

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Reader Comments (33)

  • Jan 2, 2012 - 3:26PM

    will attorney general do this?
    I think he will keep on delaying it…….

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  • Not me
    Jan 2, 2012 - 3:35PM

    Blackberry should turn over the data.

    Otherwise Pakistan FIA cyber wing will have to make a request through their counter parts in Canada.
    Pakistan has an understanding with several countries called the ‘Mutual Legal Assistance Framework’ in which one state security agency can approach its counterparts anywhere in the world for assistance in seeking evidence.

    HH if you really feel you had nothing to do in this and everything is fabricated; to expedite things you make a request to Black Berry directly asking them to hand over the date to the Commission.

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  • Bee
    Jan 2, 2012 - 4:57PM

    Even if there are questionable communication, how would we know that HH phone was not hacked? Ijaz Mansoor boasts he has contacts with ten different intelligence agencies of the world.

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  • Bee
    Jan 2, 2012 - 5:08PM

    Please check the following link.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NewsInternationalphonehackingscandal#InformationCommissioner.27sreport

    If newspapers can hack phone messages what to talk about a person who boasts about having links to ten different intelligence agencies of the world.

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  • Imran
    Jan 2, 2012 - 6:12PM

    It amuses me how our honorable judges don’t know anything about the outside world and its working.

    RIM will never hand over the data. First, it goes against their business model. Second, there are very strong privacy laws in Canada. Third, why would they like to be sucked into a controversy, when all they can do is “No thank you!”

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  • Zulfiqar
    Jan 2, 2012 - 7:14PM

    If RIM cannot cooperate with foreign governments in matters of national security then Blackberry should be asked to pack up and leave Pakistan.

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  • Saleem
    Jan 2, 2012 - 8:09PM

    Let’s get out of our cocoon and accept certain facts. If a Blackberry is not reported missing or hacked then the message getting sent/received must be from its owner.

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  • Imran
    Jan 2, 2012 - 8:17PM

    @Saleem:
    I guess you have shed your cocoon and have realized the possibility of forging the BB Messages.

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  • MALIK WAQAR HAIDER AWAN
    Jan 2, 2012 - 8:30PM

    There are no chances of cooperation by the Federal Govt. as they are having very bad record of obeying the orders of Supreme Court of Pakistan.

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  • Jan 2, 2012 - 8:49PM

    @Bee , Just for your information, The BB Server not only track the conversation but also track the Geo Location, considering the evidance also involve the mentioned locations , it wont be difficult to decipher that it was hacked or been used by HH. It also worth noting that HH has not denied the contacts with Mansoor as well. So i doubt these conversations were fabricated at all. Infect, if he has not written/advised the memo, PPP and Govt would come down all cylenders firing at GHQ and SC but everyone of us know that they are trying to avoid any fair trial since. Similarly, the way they tried to hide the issue by accusing his personal attributes , this shows all black here ….
    At the end , no one is guilty unless the guilt is proved but till then hindsight is telling us what i have written above

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  • Saleem
    Jan 2, 2012 - 9:16PM

    @Imran:

    Don’t make up things about which you very little. If Government of Pakistan asks RIM to provide copies of text messages between two said BlackBerrys then it will.

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  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Jan 2, 2012 - 9:25PM

    As Pakistanis, we believe that Americans are our forefathers whereas the truth is that we got independence from the UK and NOT from US.

    Hussain Haqqani was an adult diplomat of Pakistan in US and it is beyond imagination that either he will write or dictate memo to hand over to US General.

    Even this kind of foolishness cannot be done by any child of a diplomat, what to talk about Mansoor Ejaz who is bent upon creating chaos between the civil and military leadership in Pakistan.

    Does Pakistan have enough technical capability to seek forensic evidence from the Black-Berry Company where things can be manipulated quite according to the wishes and desire of Mansoor Ijaz.

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  • Zain Kamran
    Jan 2, 2012 - 9:26PM

    nothing’s gonna happen in this country …
    as someone said, Pakistan is the playground for western imperials…….

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  • Jan 2, 2012 - 9:44PM

    @Saleem:

    After reading your comment I had the greatest laugh of my life.

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  • khurshid
    Jan 2, 2012 - 10:59PM

    Before we all begin to licking our chops on what the RIM may or not accept to reveal, please read the BB messages transcript. Is there anything at all incriminating in it as far as HH is concerned? Two people shooting the breeze about their respective importance to the US national security persons. Where does the memo or its contents find a mention in it? What if Haqqani and Mansoor Ijaz had over 80 communications when none of these contain a single mention that even our hyper judiciary can brand as treason. The bottom line is that the memo and the BBM are two separate pieces of evidence. One shows two persons in frequent contact while the other has an accepted connection to only one of those, Mansoor Ijaz. Recommend

  • Ch Allah Daad
    Jan 2, 2012 - 11:28PM

    @ Saleem, One person is a Pakistani but lives in USA, the other is a US citizen. They both communicate with each other outside Pakistan. How can Government of Pakistan seek information about their communication from a Canadian company. Its very complicated issue and may take years to solve.

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  • Saleem
    Jan 2, 2012 - 11:30PM

    I am glad that I made you laugh.

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  • Saleem
    Jan 2, 2012 - 11:32PM

    @Ch Allah Daad:

    Don’t worry, in coming days you will find answer to your question.

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  • Ch Allah Daad
    Jan 2, 2012 - 11:43PM

    @ Saleem, Thanks for information, I didn’t know our Courts have jurisdiction over whole world.

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  • Saleem
    Jan 2, 2012 - 11:59PM

    @Ch Allah Daad:

    It is called cooperation, not jurisdiction.

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  • Allah Rakha
    Jan 3, 2012 - 12:07AM

    @Ch Allah Daad:
    If the parties involved (Mansoor Ijaz & HH) agree to the release of the forensic proofs, it should not be difficult. Mr. Ijaz has already pledged his full cooperation. Lets see what Amb. Haqqani does.

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  • realize
    Jan 3, 2012 - 12:35AM

    @Saleem:
    It’s not as simple as you think. If it were really possible, why would countries have spy agencies. Just write to phone companies around the world and they would cooperate with disclosing all secret communications. But hold on, the entire case is based on the assumption that the West is our “enemy”. Why would they cooperate?

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  • Mirza
    Jan 3, 2012 - 1:21AM

    HH and other diplomats have communication with the world including the double and triple agents. However, unless RIM record can show beyond a reasonable doubt (which is minimum standard to implicate) that HH clearly asked MI to write the full contents of the memo and deliver it to the US general on his behalf, there is no case even worth hearing in the lowest court. There has to be full burden of proof with smoking gun to implicate one for treason. A shady, shifty double agent’s testimony is not going to cut in any western court of law. He said, she said is not a credible witness especially when MI has been spitting venom against Pakistan and ISI and has admitted having contacts with a dozen foreign intelligence agencies. On the other hand a decorated US general Jones is a lot more credible and respectable who has denied that HH or Pakistani govt was involved. Let us hope that North American courts and companies are not kangaroo courts.

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  • Allah Rukha
    Jan 3, 2012 - 4:15AM

    @realize:
    If security forces presumed that “West” is their enemy, then they would not spend their budged in procuring expensive equipment, mutual exercises and bilateral agreements. Not to mention the offsprings of the entire top brass leadership is educated in West.

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  • Nauman
    Jan 3, 2012 - 4:41AM

    @Imran:
    It’s true that privacy laws are strict, but in this case it doesn’t apply. I am no lawyer but privacy laws protect against unwarranted inquiries, but with a court order RIM would have no problem providing a record of their conversations I think.

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  • Babloo
    Jan 3, 2012 - 5:40AM

    This commission is not much doferent from the commission and justices who found Mr Bhutto guilty of murder and then murdered him. Why blame Zia ?

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  • MarkH
    Jan 3, 2012 - 6:04AM

    Someone get the blackberry rape kit. But, really, if I was properly motivated, I could even fake the evidence given from that area with little effort. Anyone could. I could probably even have DG of ISI at my door next week if I had the connections to publish an article and hand the stuff to the right people.

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  • Imran
    Jan 3, 2012 - 6:14AM

    @Nauman:
    My friend, the court order has to have a jurisdiction. A Canadian court will matter, but Pakistani Court? If I am someone running a business in Canada, why will I give a damn.

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  • Attif Abbas
    Jan 3, 2012 - 6:33AM

    Best option right now for AAZ is to go through legal process uickly and then Presidential pardon for HH. AAZ is risking for deal or getting Shahada status might get him into the same once he is out from Presidency.

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  • ahmed madha
    Jan 3, 2012 - 11:32AM

    What if a Canadian citizen goes to court and pleads his court not to hand over the BBM data to Pakistan as it could technically lead to the hanging of Ambassador Haqqani under the high treason laws.He could also argue that the case is already controversial in Pakistan,a leading lawyer has already raised questions over the credibility of the whole exercise and one must also remember that many Canadian soldiers have been killed in cross borders raids from Pakistan.The Canadian court could technically bar RIM from handing over the data to the Pakistani authorities, as Canada stands against the death penalty and will not want to have anything to do with the hanging of a former Ambassador or the subversion of democratic process

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  • Hu Zhi Yuan Dr
    Jan 3, 2012 - 2:45PM

    If you have a look at “10 Best Intelligence Agencies in the World”, you will realize how right is Ms.AJ – Who stands a chance against number 1. ISI – Pakistan & ASP ??

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  • Sidra
    Jan 3, 2012 - 7:07PM

    I have seen Asma on the roads for restoration of judges and Independence of judiciary; I saw when she was psychically tortured in front of the Supreme court in the month of sep 2007. She is brave and bold lady of our country, she is right to say that what Establishment wants from commission, quite clear what establishment wanted from Supreme Court. The supremacy of establishment is accepted by apex court and what will do further this commission

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  • Aftab kenneth Wilson
    Jan 4, 2012 - 1:11AM

    Our position in the eyes of international community is nothing more than “Chasing a Wild Goose” so no one will cooperate or come here to testify. About our present CJ and his acolytes one can only say this “Anokha Ladala, Khelun Ko Mangay Chand”.

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