ISLAMABAD: Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz, a central character in the memo controversy, has revealed that since 2003 he had met President Asif Ali Zardari, ISI Director General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, former prime minister Shaukat Aziz and former ISI chief Ehsanul Haq.
In his testimony submitted to the memo commission on Thursday through his counsel Akram Sheikh, Mr Ijaz said he had met the four Pakistanis in addition to former ambassador Husain Haqqani.
He said he had met Gen Ehsanul Haq shortly before he quit the post of ISI DG in 2004. In Nov 2005, he said, he and his wife had visited then prime minister Shaukat Aziz and some military officers during and after a trip to Kashmir.
Mr Ijaz said he had met President Asif Ali Zardari on May 5, 2009, for 45-50 minutes at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel in Washington. He claimed that Mr Haqqani had invited him to brief the president shortly before he met US officials at the White House.
He said he had met Lt-Gen Shuja Pasha on Oct 22 last year at his request for approximately four hours in London to provide evidence relating to the memo.
About the relationship with Mr Haqqani, Mr Ijaz said he had maintained regular contacts with the ambassador for 10 years through email, BlackBerry exchanges, SMS, personal meetings and telephonic discussions, adding that Mr Haqqani was helpful and supportive in other important matters, including speaking at one of his charity’s annual fundraising dinners in June 2009.
However, he said, the day Mr Haqqani assumed his ambassadorship, he had no involvement in his congressional or White House lobbying efforts other than assisting him in ways he was able to after the 2005 Kashmir earthquake.
“At no time during Haqqani’s ambassadorial tenure have I lobbied anyone for Pakistan, acted as an agent of the Pakistan government or represented any foreign interest lobbying for a particular outcome. I acted in this matter purely as a friend in my private capacity trying to assist Haqqani in communicating his message in ways that only he dictated, characterised and gave authority for, not in any way to be construed as diplomatic or official activity,” Mr Ijaz said in the witness statement.
He, however, said he reserved the right to amend the witness statement at a future date once forensic examination of his BlackBerry device would be completed. He requested the memo commission to allow in-camera briefing for certain comments “because the disclosures are not appropriate for this statement that can be viewed by others”.
Giving a rationale for disclosing the memo in the press, Mr Ijaz said confusion created by the media after his article was published forced him to write the op-ed under no external impetus.
He said: “I state for the record that my sole motivation in writing the Oct 10 FT (Financial Times) article was to enunciate a policy prescription I believed was in the best national security interest of the United States about how best to deal with Directorate S of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence.
“The impetus for the article, which I drafted the first thoughts for on 24 Sept 2011, arose from testimony offered by Admiral Mullen in his final appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee in which he called the Haqqani network of terrorists a ‘veritable arm’ of the ISI, among other very strong comments.
“The reaction in Pakistan’s media to Adm. Mullen’s statement was immediate, and as it has been in my case under the glare of the Mullen memorandum controversy, was shrill and unabashed in lambasting a high-ranking military officer of the United States who served our country honourably for 43 years.
“While Adm. Mullen needed no defence from my writings, I felt it was important for US policymakers to know that an effort which involved Adm. Mullen himself back in May had been made to rein in Directorate S of ISI, and it so happened that to source this material for my opinion piece, I referenced the memorandum as the ‘peg’ – as it is called in journalism – to base my opinions on.”
Giving an overview of his meeting with Lt-Gen Shuja Pasha in London, Mr Ijaz clarified that contrary to media reports, at no time did Gen Pasha try to send a BlackBerry message to Mr Haqqani from his handset, but he recorded the PIN numbers that he had for Mr Haqqani, both the old and new ones.
He claimed that Gen Pasha had read the memorandum himself for about three or four minutes and expressed surprise and dismay over contents of the document. He did not ask a single question about the contents, Mr Ijaz said.