ISLAMABAD: The memo commission turned down on Sunday a request by former ambassador Husain Haqqani to be allowed to record his testimony via video link from London and asked him to appear before it on March 26 in Islamabad.
Mr Haqqani told the three-member commission, headed by Balochistan High Court Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, that he was not an accused but a witness in the memo case, but he had lost his job and was being consistently maligned in the media. “Since the commission has been working under a tight schedule, it should start recording my testimony from Monday (March 19) without wasting more time because I also want an early end to the inquiry. There is no bar on the commission to record my testimony from London because it has already recorded the testimony and cross-examined American businessman Mansoor Ijaz via a video link,” Mr Haqqani told the commission which resumed the hearing of the memo case in the Islamabad High Court building.
He said the Secretary of the Commission, Raja Jawad Abbas Hassan, was in London and video-conferencing equipment had already been installed and no extra arrangement would be required for recording his statement.
But the commission said: “We are not allowing you (Mr Haqqani) to record your testimony from London. If you have some security issues, we have already passed appropriate orders in this regard. The Supreme Court also passed an order with regard to your appearance and, therefore, our hands are tied.”
The commission gave him the fourth and last opportunity to either deny or accept by Wednesday the evidence produced by Mr Ijaz and said if Mr Haqqani admitted BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) exchanges and other communications with Mr Ijaz, there would be no need to carry out forensic test of the devices.
The commission asked the parties in the case to submit protocol for forensic test of BlackBerry handsets of Mr Ijaz. It also directed the commission’s secretary to finalise arrangements for the forensic test.
On Sunday, members of the commission and Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq cross-examined Mr Ijaz who surprised them once again by claiming that the former ambassador was dreaming of becoming the president of Pakistan. He said that in September last year Mr Haqqani had told him that he was quitting the post of ambassador and if the US government wanted a long-term solution to their problems in Pakistan then tell them “I am their man”.
Mr Ijaz said he had then drawn a conclusion that the ambassador wanted to replace President Asif Ali Zardari. “I then understood his (Mr Haqqani) thirst for power and changed my perception about him.”
Mr Ijaz told the commission that although Mr Haqqani was no more his friend, he still considered him a “man of honour”.
In a lighter mood, Justice Isa asked him why he was not interested in the friendship of future president.
“I never questioned the patriotism of Mr Haqqani nor did I think the memo was against the interest of his country. Otherwise, I would have never delivered it (memorandum) to former US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen,” Mr Ijaz said, adding: “I always assisted those who needed my help; I played a role in the efforts of extradition of Osama bin Laden from Sudan and Afghanistan.” In reply to a question by the attorney general, Mr Ijaz said that in May 2009 he met Bilawal Zardari on the day he had met President Zardari in Washington. “I delivered the memo in good faith, but its denial from the Presidency and the Foreign Office damaged my repute. Threats from Interior Minister Rehman Malik also put my business relations at stake. Therefore, I decided to appear before the commission for the damage control.”
Mr Ijaz said he had also changed his perception about the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) after he met its chief Lt-Gen Shuja Pasha and found him a “man of honour”.
The commission also took up an application submitted by Kashmiri leader Yaseen Malik seeking to become a party in the memo case.
In his earlier testimony, Mr Ijaz had claimed that he had arranged a meeting between Mr Malik and C.D. Sahay, a former deputy chief (who later became chief) of the Indian secret service, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).
His wife Mushaal Malik told the commission that her husband was interested in appearing before the commission to demonstrate the truth and assist it in evaluating the testimony of Mr Ijaz.
The commission raised some technical objections and observed that the application had been addressed to the chief justice of Pakistan, and not to the commission.
Akram Sheikh, the counsel for Mr Ijaz, contended that Yaseen Malik was a foreigner and under the law he was not entitled to cross-examine his client. He accused intelligence agencies of diverting the proceedings.