Ijaz refuses to visit Pakistan over security concerns
ISLAMABAD: A day before his scheduled appearance before the memo investigation commission, Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz refused on Monday to come to Pakistan and said his statement should be recorded and evidence received from him abroad.
After the development, former ambassador to US Husain Haqqani requested the commission to suspend Ijaz’s right to give a statement because of his continuous absence.
In an application submitted to the commission through his lawyer Akram Sheikh, Ijaz expressed willingness to hand over all documents allegedly connecting Haqqani with the memorandum addressed to former US military chief Mike Mullen.
He said the entire commission or one of its members should visit an appointed place outside Pakistan to take into possession the original, ‘untampered’ Blackberry handsets, recorded messages, emails, call logs and handwritten notes and record his oral testimony.
The application said that by virtue of paragraph 9(e) of the Supreme Court order in the case, the commission was mandated to collect evidence within and outside Pakistan in accordance with prevailing laws.
It said that in order to ‘unravel the truth’ and ‘expose the fraudulent version of Mr Haqqani’ the applicant had decided to undertake the risk of travelling to Pakistan and continued to be willing to do so, in letter and spirit.
Mr Ijaz said that apart from the risk to his life, he held valuable equipment and evidence which, according to him, would settle the controversy, and if they ended up in the wrong hands there was possibility that they might be tampered with or destroyed.
“If the handsets are electronically tampered with during inspection and evaluation in any manner which causes temporary or permanent data loss, there is no recovery route to retrieve the original data. BlackBerry encryption programs are complex and it is nearly impossible to decrypt without help from Research in Motion (RIM) which has thus far shown no material interest in assisting either the commission or any other authority related to this matter.”
FEARS & APPREHENSIONS: He said the day when he was planning to visit Pakistan’s High Commission in London a news report was published, attributed to and never rebutted by Interior Minister Rehman Malik, that he could be detained and investigated under Article 6 of the Constitution for hatching a conspiracy to topple the late Benazir Bhutto’s government in 1989.
“These threats have continued unabated till date in some form or the other and shared with the learned commission as well.”
According to the application, after assurances made by the attorney general for the security of Ijaz on Jan 16, he started making preparation to visit Pakistan.
He purchased an insurance policy in favour of his shareholders on their demand and also in favour of his wife and children because he was leaving the country with a possibility that he might never return and might be held in Pakistan against his will for an indefinite period.
After taking all material steps to leave for Pakistan, he noticed that the interior minister had stated on Jan 21 that he could be booked in other cases and stopped from leaving the country, Ijaz recalled.
The minister also said that, if the Parliamentary Committee on National Security so desired, his name could be put on the Exit Control List (ECL) for crimes against the state, Mansoor Ijaz said.
The applicant added that security arrangements for him had been assigned to the interior ministry instead of the army, as requested by him and ordered by the commission on Jan 9 and 16.
He said the ministry had appointed its subordinate, Dr Mujeebur Rehman Khan, as the focal person for his security and he found this arrangement unsatisfactory and based on mala fide.
“The applicant, being a witness in these proceedings, has reluctantly relented and has decided not visit to Pakistan under any circumstances where the very institution charged with his protection and safe passage is acting under the orders of the very individuals against whom he is deposing as a witness and is headed by an individual who almost daily makes threats and charges against the applicant.”
He requested that the related forensic and oral evidence be recorded outside Pakistan “in the interest of justice”.
Akram Sheikh, Ijaz’s advocate, said his client had requested the commission to record his statement in London or Zurich (Switzerland) because his law firms and family members were not happy with what he termed the deviation of the government and the armed forces from their proclamations to provide him security.
On the other hand, Haqqani’s counsel, Zahid Hussain Bukhari, said the Supreme Court order did not mention that the commission might go abroad to record Ijaz’s statement.
“This exercise needs millions of rupees out of he taxpayers’ money and the lawyers engaged with the issue also have to go along with the commission at the expense of their clients,” he said, adding that his client could not afford a foreign trip.
Advocate Bukhari also submitted an application of Haqqani to the commission in which he contended that Ijaz had sought adjournments on Jan 9, Jan 16 and even for Jan 24 and he was not attending the proceedings without a lawful reason or excuse.
Bukhari said the commission had accepted all the demands by Ijaz and even dates of the proceedings were being fixed in keeping with his wishes.
The attorney general and the federal government had arranged foolproof security, but Mansoor Ijaz’s attitude and conduct showed that he was playing with sentiments of the nation and wasting the commission’s time, Husain Haqqani’s counsel added.
He requested the commission to suspend the right of Ijaz to record his statement so that the proceedings were completed within the time frame given by the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the Leader of the Opposition in Punjab Assembly, Raja Riaz Ahmad, has submitted an application to the commission through his counsel Chaudhry Azhar, seeking permission to become a party in the case.
Talking to reporters, he said Ijaz had admitted his role in toppling a PPP government and a case of high treason should be registered against him.
Riaz alleged that the memo scandal was a “creation of Pakistan Muslim League-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif”.