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Ijaz approaches SC for testimony abroad

January 29, 2012

American businessman Mansoor Ijaz. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: The wish list of Mansoor Ijaz, a Pakistani-American businessman, seems to be growing as he petitioned the Supreme Court on Saturday, seeking a direction for the judicial commission probing the memo affair to record his evidence outside Pakistan.

Headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, a nine-judge Supreme Court bench will resume on Monday the hearing on the petitions of PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and others on the secret memo reportedly sent by then ambassador to US Husain Haqqani to former US joint chiefs of staff Admiral Mike Mullen to pre-empt a military takeover.

Apart from taking Mr Ijaz’s petition moved by his counsel Muhammad Akram Sheikh, the Supreme Court’s larger bench may also extend the one-month tenure of the judicial commission which is ending on Jan 30.

During the last hearing on Jan 24, the three-judge commission had directed its secretary to send a request to the Supreme Court for extension in the given timeframe because cross-examination of key witnesses required more time.

The commission had rejected Mr Ijaz’s plea to record his statement abroad and given him a final opportunity to appear before it on Feb 9.

Mr Ijaz, considered to be a star witness in the case, moved the fresh application under Order 33 Rule 6 of the Supreme Court Rules 1980, requesting that either the full bench of the commission or any one of its members could visit an appointed place outside Pakistan for taking into possession the original, un-tampered BlackBerry handsets, text messages, emails, call logs and handwritten notes of the calls as well as recording of his testimony.

“The Supreme Court has authorised the commission to collect evidence within and outside Pakistan according to prevailing laws,” mentioned the applicant, adding he had openly expressed his dissatisfaction over his security in Pakistan.

The applicant alleges that in order to unravel the truth and expose the ‘fraudulent’ version of Pakistan’s former ambassador he had decided to undertake the risk of travelling to Pakistan and continues to be willing to do so in what is now clearly a hostile environment to both his personal security and the security of his electronic devices and other physical evidence to testify and undergo cross-examination. It is imperative that there should be no security compromise to what is now the only physical evidence available, he emphasises.

He explains that he has business stakes worldwide and his stakeholders, family and friends have shown reluctance in his travelling to Pakistan.

“The day when the applicant was planning to visit Pakistan’s High Commission in London, a news item was published attributed to and never rebutted by Interior Minister Rehman Malik, that Ijaz could be detained and investigated under Article 6 (high treason) of the Constitution for hatching a conspiracy to topple Benazir’s government in 1989,” he said.

The applicant did not even know Ms Bhutto in 1989, he claimed, adding these threats had continued unabated till date in some form or the other and shared with the commission as well. The applicant said he did not want to be part of any institutional conflict and has the highest respect for all institutions of Pakistan, be it judiciary, parliament or executive.

It is also pertinent to note that the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) also summoned Mr Ijaz on Jan 26 and may summon him again on Feb 10.

“The applicant has credible knowledge that PCNS is likely to pass a resolution for putting him on ECL if he enters Pakistan,” the petitioner claimed, adding he did not want to be the suspected root cause of any institutional conflict between the PCNS, the commission, the judiciary, the government and the armed forces on the issue of his security.