Pakistani-American Mansoor Ijaz claims President Zardari had sought Washington’s help for removing the army and ISI chiefs in his letter to US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen, and had assured the Obama administration that he would cut all ties to militant groups if it assisted him do so.—File Photo

WASHINGTON: Mansoor Ijaz, a Pakistani-American who claims to have delivered a secret message to US officials on behalf of President Asif Ali Zardari, said on Friday that his contacts indeed had delivered that letter to the then US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen.

Earlier this week, Mr Mullen's spokesman Captain John Kirby said that the admiral had not received any letter from Mr Ijaz. On Oct 10, Mr Ijaz claimed that President Zardari had sought Washington’s help for removing the army and ISI chiefs and had assured the Obama administration that he would cut all ties to militant groups if it assisted him do so.

The president allegedly made this offer in a letter he gave Mr Ijaz for personally delivering it to American leaders.

But earlier this week, The Cable, a publication associated with the prestigious Foreign Policy group, published a report based on a statement by Mr Mullen’s spokesman, saying that the admiral did “not know Mr Ijaz and has no recollection of receiving any correspondence from him”.

Capt Kirby also said he “cannot say definitively that correspondence did not come from him — the admiral received many missives as chairman from many people every day, some official, some not. But he does not recall one from this individual”.

In an email message to Dawn, Mr Ijaz pointed out that the denial confirmed his claim.

“I never said I delivered anything to Admiral Mullen. What I wrote was — the memo was delivered to Adm Mullen at 1400 hrs on May 10,” Mr Ijaz wrote. “We have proof that Admiral Mullen received the memorandum and acknowledged it to the person who delivered it to him.”

Mr Ijaz confirmed Capt Kirby's claim that Admiral Mullen did not know the Pakistani-American businessman.

“It is true that I do not know Admiral Mullen and have never met him. But the person I asked to take the memorandum to him — that person knew him about as well as anyone can. And that person knows me pretty well too,” Mr Ijaz wrote.

He claimed that the article which included Capt Kirby's denial was written “with a slant to discredit me personally because whoever put him up to writing the article could not avoid the facts — facts that the hidden hand behind (this) article knew full well because he, along with myself, are the only two people who know precisely what we did”.

However, in his clarification Mr Ijaz does not say that he was directly contacted by President Zardari or that he was acting on his instructions.

Meanwhile, diplomatic sources in Washington raised new objections to Mr Ijaz’s statement, noting that the Pakistanis were saying they never sent the message while the Americans were saying that they did not receive it.

“Even if Mr Ijaz’s argument that he did indeed communicate with third parties about serving as a secret intermediary is accepted, he cannot prove that his role affected decisions either in Pakistan or the US,” said one such source.

“If Mansoor Ijaz delivered a secret message, why did he publicise it unless he is part of some trap for the democratic Pakistani government?” the source asked.The source also disputed Mr Ijaz's claim that the Pakistani official who gave him President Zardari's message used a Blue Berry to exchange message. “Are private BB messages or calls sufficient to form basis of international diplomacy?” he asked.

“Even if he proves he exchanged messages with someone he considers a senior diplomat, is there any proof with Mansoor Ijaz that he was acting under authority of President Zardari or that the memo Ijaz delivered was actually read by Admiral Mullen?”The source pointed out that after each time Mr Ijaz claimed he played a secret channel role, there had been a controversy. “Is it possible that he exaggerates his role for self-publicity and promotion? Why should he be deemed credible?” the source asked.

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