The Memogate commission, penning down a short order, decided on Friday to record the testimony of Mansoor Ijaz via video conference from Pakistan’s High Commission in London on February 22, at 2:00 pm.
A high-powered commission comprising three chief justices of Balochistan, Sindh and Islamabad High Court, namely Justice Qazi Faez Isa, Justice Musheer Alam and Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman, directed the secretary of the commission Raja Jawad Abbas to travel to London and receive documents, evidence and gadgets from Mansoor Ijaz. Lawyers in Islamabad will cross-examine the video conference.
“The commission has decided to record the statement of Ijaz through a video link on February 22,” Ijaz’s counsel Akram Sheikh told AFP. “It is an important development in this case. The court has accepted my request. We want the people to know what the truth is,” Sheikh said.
Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) has decided not to record Mansoor Ijaz’s statement outside the parliament. “We cannot record Ijaz’s statement abroad because it’s contrary to parliamentary traditions and norms,” Senator Raza Rabbani said.
The committee has asked Mansoor Ijaz to appear before the lawmakers after submitting his reply on the issue on Feb 10. The secretaries of the committee, through foreign missions of Pakistan in Washington, London and Bonn, sent notices to Mansoor to clarify his stance on the issue.
The committee has also empowered its chairman to keep a vigil on the proceedings of the memo commission and summon the meeting of the committee if any meaningful situation arises.
The commission has directed Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq to complete all the arrangements by February 20 simultaneously in London’s High Commission and the Islamabad High Court by ensuring clear reception of audio and video transmission at both ends.
While dismissing Ijaz’s invitation to the commission to come to London for his testimony, it has directed Akram Sheikh, Ijaz’s counsel, to submit three verified sets of all documents related to the memo to the commission by the next date of hearing. However, Justice Isa said that if any lawyer wants to go to London on his own expense, the court does not have any reservations.
At the outset of the hearing on Friday, the commission was informed that a letter has been sent to BlackBerry manufacturer Research in Motion (RIM) for data from the handsets allegedly used by Mansoor Ijaz and former ambassador Husain Haqqani.
Barrister Zafarullah of the Wattan Party pressed the commission to record ISI chief Ahmad Shuja Pasha’s statement as secondary evidence because Mansur Ijaz refused to appear despite several assurances. He contended that the commission had given guarantees to Mansur Ijaz, but he refused, therefore his guarantee for appearing in London’s high commission should be rejected.
Former ambassador Husain Haqqani’s counsel Zahid Bukhari strongly opposed the commission’s decision saying it will be prejudiced if, in the future, his client is not allowed to have his statement recorded via video conferencing in America.
Speaking to reporters at the Lahore airport, Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar said “he (Mansoor Ijaz) is mocking the country and must not be given so much importance.”
Supporting what he called was Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s silence on the issue, Mukhtar said PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif has realised that the Memogate is not based on facts. “At the start of the issue, he (Nawaz) moved the court, but once he learnt of the facts, he has preferred to remain silent. He has done well by going to London instead of appearing before the commission again.”
(With additional input from Zahid Gishkori)
Published in The Express Tribune, February 11th, 2012.