Lawyer for Mansoor Ijaz, Akram Sheikh.—File Photo

ISLAMABAD: A probe into a major scandal threatening Pakistan’s president on Tuesday appeared at risk of collapsing as investigators ruled out travelling abroad to hear the testimony of the star witness.

American businessman Mansoor Ijaz, who implicated President Asif Ali Zardari in a May memo seeking US help to rein in Pakistan’s powerful military, has refused to travel to Pakistan, citing fears for his safety.

His testimony is considered key to any case against the president, who faces frenzied speculation that he could be forced out of office over the scandal, attempts to reopen corruption cases and even a bout of reported illness.

Giving Ijaz another opportunity to appear, a three-member judicial commission adjourned until February 9 and said they would ask the Supreme Court to extend their mandate, which was due to end on Saturday.

“The commission cannot go abroad because the Supreme Court has restrained Husain Haqqani, so in the same way, Mansoor Ijaz’s statement should be recorded in Pakistan,” said Justice Qazi Faez Isa.

The judges earlier summoned Interior Minister Rehman Malik to explain how the government could protect Ijaz.

“He will be given box security. I assure you that his name will not be put on exit control list,” Malik told the commission.

Ijaz’s lawyer, Akram Sheikh, earlier told the commission that his client feared being barred from leaving Pakistan. Instead, he has offered to record his testimony in London or Zurich.

“It is better for the image of the country that anyone coming here to give evidence, goes back safely,” Justice Qazi Faez Isa told Malik.

“Mansoor Ijaz is the key person and for me this case is zero without his statement,” Pakistani analyst A.H. Nayyar told AFP.

“If he is not willing to come (to Pakistan) all this means nothing.”