ISLAMABAD: All eyes are focussed on the Supreme Court as it is set to take up the memo case again on Thursday.
In a late night development on Wednesday which added yet another twist to the memo scandal, the federal government, through the Ministry of Defence, conceded before the Supreme Court that it had no operational control over the armed forces as well as the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
A one-page reply by the defence ministry said it was not in a position to submit any reply on behalf of the armed forces and the ISI.
Earlier on Dec 15, the government had submitted its reply on behalf of the ministries of interior and foreign affairs. It requested the court to dismiss the petitions over memo scandal.
The filing of the reply by the defence ministry has heightened apprehensions, with many interpreting it as a telltale sign of friction between the civilian arm of the government and the military over the memo matter.
Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the ISI chief, also submitted to the court his sworn affidavit through the office of Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq late on Wednesday night. He virtually repeated the stand he had taken in his reply filed earlier in the court.
Earlier during the day, army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani submitted a sworn affidavit acknowledging the existence of the memorandum while PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif submitted a rejoinder.
The affidavits of President Asif Ali Zardari and former ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani had not arrived.
Not satisfied with the replies, the court had on Dec 19 asked the petitioners as well as the respondents to submit affidavits on oath as well as paragraph-wise comments denying or accepting whatever was levelled or stated in the petitions or the replies.
The court felt the need for seeking sworn affidavits and rejoinders to clear cobwebs in different stands taken by the petitioners and the respondents and to ascertain whether a question of public importance is involved to exercise jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution by the court.
However, despite clear directives President Zardari chose to remain silent by not filing any reply. Realising the importance of the reply on part of the president, the Supreme Court at the last hearing had pointed out that allegations not rebutted would always be considered correct, implicitly asking the president to submit his point of view on the memo scandal.
“I am not aware of the status. However, it is a legal and constitutional issue which will appropriately be addressed in accordance with the law and the Constitution,” presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar told Dawn when asked whether or not the president would file the reply.
NAWAZ SEES SERIOUS THREAT
In his rejoinder, Nawaz Sharif expressed his surprise over not filing of any reply by the president. “Mr Zardari now has an ample and clear opportunity through this petition to clear the name of the allegation internationally levelled against him, but reluctance to take benefit of this opportunity is not understandable,” the rejoinder said.
If the allegations levelled by Mansoor Ijaz are even half true, Mr Sharif feared, the very foundations of the country were under a serious threat.
The rejoinder said: “If the entire state and the indispensable institutions defending its integrity and sovereignty are rocked, then how are the fundamental rights of the people not aggressed upon?
“The question which might, however, still require determination is whether Mansoor Ijaz, by creating the memo and then ensuring its communication to one of the highest and one of the most important functionaries of the US, is only playing a joke just to tease his friend Husain Haqqani or is it a track-II back channel diplomacy.
“Needless to say that even former US national security adviser James Logan Jones confirmed through his affidavit that the memo was authorised by the highest authority within the Pakistan government. Should not it be the anxiety of Haqqani whose name is being publicly sullied both nationally and internationally, to ask for a determination of actual facts to clear his name and would not he have in fact joined the petitioner’s prayer if he is innocent.”
The rejoinder reiterated that the disclosure made and evidence in possession of Ijaz did warrant a proper judicial scrutiny and determination in the larger public and national interest.
Referring to the allegation that the petition was conceived by those who wished to destroy the democratic system, the rejoinder said it would be the anxiety of any “normal, reasonable patriotic citizen” to ensure that the perpetrators of such crime against their motherland are identified and brought to book.
On the parliamentary committee seized with the matter, the rejoinder said it did not oust the jurisdiction of the court to discharge its obligations the Constitution had placed on it. In his affidavit, the army chief repeated whatever he had submitted in his earlier reply.
The affidavit said: “The memo episode has an impact on national security and lowers the morale of the Pakistan Army, whose young officers and soldiers are laying down their lives for the security and defence of territorial integrity and political independence and sovereignty of Pakistan.
“Nonetheless, Pakistan Army is in high spirits and fully determined to defend its homeland against all challenges.
“There is nothing denying the fact that the memo exists and it is also admitted to have been delivered and received by the US authorities. Therefore, there may be a need to fully examine the fact and circumstances leading to the conception and issuance of the memo.
“The ISI DG briefed the army chief on Oct 24 about his meeting with Mansoor Ijaz. In his (ISI DG) opinion there was sufficient material available on the existence of the memo and that it had been passed to Admiral Mullen and that Ijaz remained in touch with Haqqani from May 9 to 11.
“As per ISI DG’s assessment, the sequence and contents of the text messages and telephone calls created a reasonable doubt regarding Haqqani’s association with the memo.”
In his rejoinder and affidavit, Barrister Zafarullah said he had filed the petition to ensure security, liberty and freedom of Pakistan .