US obstructed data verification: Ijaz

March 03, 2012


American businessman of Pakistan origin, Mansoor Ijaz– Reuters

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz, the central character in the memo case, said on Friday that the US administration had blocked the validation of his BlackBerry set that he had used for chatting with former ambassador Husain Haqqani.

He was replying to a question asked by PML-N lawmaker’s counsel Salahuddin Mengal during cross-examination before the commission headed by Balochistan High Court Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa investigating a purported memorandum delivered to former US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen.

Mr Ijaz said a US government agency he had approached refused, under the influence of the administration, to validate the handset and verify its contents.

He said some friends tried to persuade him at the behest of Mr Haqqani and the Pakistani government to avoid the investigation.

He declined to disclose their names, but said an American lobbyist and strategist, Harlen Ullman, had become his vocal critic after the memo issue came under the spotlight. He alleged that the lobbyist had played a role in the release of Mr Haqqani from “house arrest”.

Mr Ijaz told the commission that he had remained in touch with Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha for quite some time after their meeting held on Oct 22 last year. During their communication by phone and emails, he had sent to Lt-Gen Pasha BBM (BlackBerry message) screenshots related to the memorandum and discussed matters about his security during his visit to Pakistan for recording his testimony.

While Mr Ijaz was replying to a question by Mustafa Ramday, counsel for PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif, regarding his communication with Gen Pasha, the video conferencing link went down and remained so for half an hour.

He told the commission that Mr Haqqani knew about the developments regarding the May 2 incident in which US personnel had killed Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

“When I telephoned him (on May 11) and told him the broad content of transcripts of the conversations that took place during and after the May 2 incident, he replied he was aware of these facts and said ‘since we have achieved the objective, therefore, no need to discuss it’.”

Mr Ijaz did not reply when Advocate Ramday asked him if President Asif Ali Zardari had prior knowledge of the US raid.

He said the commission would know the fact after examining the transcripts related to the incident that he handed over in a sealed envelope to the commission’s secretary Raja Jawad Abbas Hassan.

The commission asked Mr Haqqani to submit the PIN (personal identification number) of his BlackBerry sets on the next date of hearing and to be ready for recording his testimony and cross-examination that would be conducted soon after the cross-examination of Mr Ijaz was concluded.

It asked Mr Haqqani’s counsel Zahid Hussain Bukhari to ensure his presence in the courtroom and said an alternative arrangement would be made in the event of his absence.

Mr Ijaz was asked to appear on March 15 for cross-examination that would continue daily till March 18 and to bring his handsets for forensic test. The commission asked the government to present the mobile phone bills of Mr Haqqani from March to November last year.

The commission’s secretary was asked to contact forensic experts in the UK to ascertain their expertise in retrieving data and validating the content of BBM chat.

The cross-examination of Mr Ijaz by the petitioners concluded on Friday.

The commission offered Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq to cross-examine Mr Ijaz but he said he would do so briefly after the cross-examination by Mr Haqqani’s counsel.