ISLAMABAD: Saturday saw a tense build-up to Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz’s arrival in the country for appearing before the commission investigating the memo case.
The day began with a meeting called by Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq to finalise arrangements for Mr Ijaz’s security.
Mansoor Ijaz, who is supposed to arrive in Pakistan to attend the commission’s proceedings on Tuesday (Jan 24), voiced concern over the security arrangements and accused Interior Minister Rehman Malik of “orchestrating a massive cover-up on behalf of President Asif Ali Zardari” to stop his testimony.
Rehman Malik made known his intention of following directives of the attorney general’s meeting that required his ministry to provide security to Mr Ijaz. But a warning followed: “I will also be pursuing the directives of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, also seized with the same issue, to put Mr Ijaz’s name on Exit Control List (ECL).”
Mr Ijaz is regarded as the star witness in the memo scandal since it was he who alleged in an article for Britain’s Financial Times that former ambassador to US Husain Haqqani had asked him to deliver a secret memorandum to Admiral Mike Mullen, the former chairman of US Joint Chiefs of Staff, seeking his help to “pre-empt a military takeover” in Islamabad.
The meeting on security arrangements was also attended by Defence Secretary Nargis Sethi, Interior Secretary Khawaja Siddiq Akbar, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and representatives of law enforcement agencies.
“I can’t disclose what arrangements have been made, but rest assured that foolproof security is in place after covering all possible angles and aspects to provide safety to Mr Ijaz,” the AG told Dawn. He said the armed forces were also on board.
Akram Sheikh, who is representing Mr Ijaz before the commission, wrote letters to Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and the Attorney General on Saturday indicating that he would advise his client not to come to Islamabad if the armed forces failed to provide security.
In his blunt letter to the army chief, the counsel sought first-hand information regarding actual on-ground logistical arrangements to ensure his client’s safety from the point of his arrival in Pakistan to the point of his departure.
“Unless I receive a formal commitment from you that…, I will not be in a position to advise my client to travel to Pakistan to be before the commission on Jan 24 as his life will be under threat,” the letter said.
“Please also note that your failure to immediately confirm to me your commitment to comply with the commission’s direction by ensuring my client’s safety in Pakistan will render you in clear contempt of court, something that I will formally take up before the commission on the morning of Jan 24,” it warned.
The US embassy had a word about Mr Ijaz’s trip, too. It came out with a denial of reports that he had been given any assurance.
Spokesman Mark Stroh, talking to Dawn, said the embassy would not be involved in coordinating his security or any of his activities during his stay here.
The comments came in response to Mr Ijaz’s media interviews in which he had claimed to have been assured by US authorities of support during his stay in Pakistan.
“If, God forbid, anything goes wrong they (US administration) will certainly be there to help my family make sure that things got sorted out. I am absolutely confident that the American government will do the right thing if something went wrong,” Mr Ijaz had said, claiming that the US administration realised that he was a “high profile citizen”.
Furthermore, his claim about a conference call with State Department officials before finalising his travel plans for the testimony immediately gave the impression that he was being backed by the US government.
“We have been clear that the ‘memogate’ issue is an internal matter for Pakistan, and we are not interested in interfering in that issue,” Mr Stroh stressed.
SECURITY MEETING Attorney General Anwarul Haq said he had called the meeting in line with the Jan 9 orders of the judicial commission that security be provided to Mr Ijaz by law enforcement agencies as well as the Army in addition to what the AG deemed appropriate.
Asked whether the interior ministry or the armed forces would be monitoring the security, the AG cited Article 245 of the Constitution which envisaged that the armed forces, under directives of the federal government, would defend the country against external aggression or threat of war, and subject to law, act in aid of civil power when called to do so.
He, however, hastened to add that law enforcement agencies were always under control of the interior ministry.
Referring to Akram Sheikh’s letter to him expressing concern over the security arrangements, he said the counsel had written letters to him and the army chief despite the appointment of the DIG (security) as the focal person to interact between the counsel and the government for any need he might face.
’MALICE AFORETHOUGHT’ Mansoor Ijaz sent an email to Dawn in which he said his security was a paramount concern in delivering physical and electronic evidence safely into the hands of the commission and then appearing in person to deliver his verbal testimony.
The commission and the Supreme Court, he added, were solely responsible for ensuring that the task of providing him security was entrusted to the armed forces to avoid ‘devious and underhanded tricks’ by the interior minister.
He accused Mr Malik of betraying “malice aforethought”.
“His repeated taunts and threats against me during the past several weeks as he became President Zardari’s point man on assassinating my character and my family’s good name are a direct result of his knowledge that I know everything about him as well,” he alleged.
“The people of Pakistan have a right to know that the cover-up being orchestrated by the Zardari government knows no limits to hide the facts I will bring to light in the coming days.”
He said Mr Malik had miscalculated his brinkmanship by entangling himself with him. “You want a war with me, Mr Malik? You just got it.”
In his letter, Mr Sheikh said that unless the AG assured him that the interior ministry would not be involved in the security of his client and unless, through him or directly, relevant personnel of the army gave an assurance to him, he would not be in a position to advise his client to come to Pakistan.
“And if this happens, the responsibility for my client’s failure to appear before the commission will be on the government, which may prompt me to request the commission to record my client’s statement outside Pakistan, something that is barred neither by law nor by the order of the Supreme Court,” he said.