ISLAMABAD: Friday turned out to be a day of bitter exchanges and allegations and counter-allegations as the judicial commission continued the cross-examination of Mansoor Ijaz, the American businessman at the centre of the memo case.
Mr Ijaz repeated his old allegations and levelled new ones about his interaction with former ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani, and the latter’s lawyer Zahid Hussain Bokhari at one stage stormed out, protesting that he was not being allowed to freely carry out the cross-examination.
Mr Ijaz claimed that Mr Haqqani had told Gen James L. Jones, the then national security adviser of the US, in July 2009 that President Asif Ali Zardari had assigned him the responsibility as national security adviser of Pakistan in additional to his ambassadorship.
He also claimed that Mr Haqqani had on May 9 in 16-minute conversation dictated the memorandum in which he had covered all the important aspects, including elimination of ‘section S’ of ISI, the political situation in Pakistan, conduct of the army, formulation of security council, inquiry into the May 2 incident, the episode of 1971 and the Afghanistan issue, but his claim was denied by the other side.
The counsel for the former ambassador announced after a break in the proceedings that he was quitting in protest against unfavourable attitude of the commission’s chairman.
However, he reversed his decision when the commission decided to continue the cross-examination even in the absence of Mr Haqqani and his counsel.
Advocate Bokhari said he had certain reservations on the constitution of the commission but had joined the proceedings with high hopes.
He alleged that the commission was not properly facilitating him and interrupting his questions.
“When a judge is not comfortable with a lawyer then it becomes difficult for that lawyer to continue his job,” he said.
He alleged that the commission was repeating the replies but always stopped him whenever he tried to dig out the truth.
“I am withdrawing my power of attorney and the commission may forgive me for my incapability,” he added.
Balochistan High Court Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, who heads the three-member commission, said that under Rule 4 of Clause 3 of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC), a counsel could not quit unless the court permitted him to do so. “I am in a chair that acquires respect,” he said.
Her said it was not a court but a fact-finding inquiry and the commission had given complete latitude to the counsel, he said.
On Thursday, the commission was ready to continue till 10pm Pakistan time and the counsel other than Advocate Bokhari had also agreed to sit till late hours, but he insisted on concluding the proceedings for the day, the judge said.
Justice Isa said Mr Haqqani had filed an incomplete reply and “we directed him to file a comprehensive reply to the accusation in his interest”.
He said Advocate Bokhari had raised a large number of irrelevant questions and attacked the character of Mr Ijaz.
“If you are not willing to cross-examine Mr Ijaz, your associates can also argue and then we can ask Mr Haqqani to cross-examine the witness,” he told the counsel.
“It is our duty to conduct cross-examination to find out the truth.”
Justice Isa said if anybody felt hurt, “I am the first to apologise but the proceedings cannot be adjourned at this point”.
Mr Ijaz accused Mr Haqqani’s lawyer of character assassination and said that instead of cross-examining him about the memorandum, Advocate Bokhari had raised questions regarding his past and articles written by him.
He said that although he had not received any written instructions from Mr Haqqani for drafting the memorandum, its contents had been dictated to him by phone.
Mr Haqqani told the commission that he had persuaded his counsel to continue to argue and he had the highest regard for the commission.
Replying to a question asked by Advocate Bokhari, Mr Ijaz said Mr Haqqani in his BlackBerry messages had agreed to various facts contained in his articles and once when he said “the ISI men would chase us”, the former ambassador had replied that “they are in fact brainless… and only tigers at home”.
The lawyer put several questions to Mr Ijaz about BlackBerry messages, emails, his interviews to foreign media and telephonic conversation with Mr Haqqani.
He also played a recording of an interaction of Mr Ijaz with Fox News from the Pakistani High Commission in London regarding the Abbottabad operation in which the businessman criticised the security establishment of Pakistan.