Mansoor Ijaz,a star witness in the memo issue,today informed a judicial panel probing the scandal that he would not come to Pakistan to depose before it despite assurance by Interior Minister Rehman Malik that full security would be provided to the controversial businessman.
After Malik gave the assurance,the three-judge commission appointed by the Supreme Court gave Ijaz’s lawyer Akram Sheikh 30 minutes to consult the Pakistani-American businessman and ascertain whether he would come to Pakistan.
Sheikh subsequently informed the panel that Ijaz had said he would not come to the country due to security concerns.
Ijaz,the central figure in the memo scandal,has failed to make two scheduled appearances before the commission.
He was initially asked to appear before the panel on January 16. After he failed to come to Pakistan,the commission acceded to his request to be given more time and asked him to depose on January 24.
Earlier in the day,the commission summoned the Interior Minister after Sheikh alleged that Ijaz was receiving threats from government officials and he was not satisfied with the security to be provided by the Interior Ministry.
Sheikh insisted that the army should be the focal organisation for Ijaz’s security.
Malik appeared before the commission in the afternoon and assured it that he would provide complete security to Ijaz.
Malik told the panel he would not include Ijaz in the Exit Control List,an Interior Ministry document with names of all persons barred from travelling out of Pakistan.
The minister said the media had misquoted his remarks. Though adequate arrangements had been made for Ijaz’s security,he had complicated matters by demanding that an army battalion should be deployed to guard him,Malik said.
Malik further said Ijaz had levelled unsubstantiated charges against him and his family.
Earlier in the proceedings,the commission headed by Balochistan High Court Chief Justice Qazi Faez Eesa questioned Sheikh about Ijaz’s failure to appear before the panel.
Eesa noted that the commission had not issued any directive asking the Interior Ministry to disassociate itself from the task of providing security to Ijaz.
The lawyers of several persons who filed petitions in the Supreme Court on the memo issue,including PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif,supported Sheikh’s call for the commission to record Ijaz’s statement in London or Zurich.
However,Zahid Bokhari,the counsel for Pakistan’s former envoy to the US,Husain Haqqani,said Ijaz had insulted the commission by refusing to come to Pakistan to testify.
Bokhari told reporters Ijaz should be held in contempt of the commission for failing to appear before it several times.
Security was arranged according to Ijaz’s demands and if he had any issues with the arrangements,he could have asked for changes,Bokhari said.
He further said there was no law which supported the commission going out of Pakistan to record Ijaz’s statements.
Law Minister Maula Bux Chandio too questioned Ijaz’s failure to come to Pakistan,saying the government was not stopping him from presenting his views before the commission. Chandio told reporters at Hyderabad in Sindh province that the government was not creating hurdles in Ijaz’s way.
“I wonder what threats a visit to Pakistan poses We could have provided him security. We don’t have anything against his visit to Pakistan,” Chandio said.
Haqqani was forced to resign after Ijaz made public the memo that had sought US help to prevent a feared coup in Pakistan after Osama bin Laden’s killing in May last year.
Ijaz claimed he had drafted and delivered the memo to the US military on Haqqani’s instructions,a charge denied by the government.