Mansoor Ijaz,the star witness in Pakistan’s memo scandal,will be allowed to record his testimony via a video-link from London,the judicial panel probing the episode ordered today after his repeated failures to appear before it threatened to derail the investigation.
The judicial commission set a February 22 date for Ijaz’s testimony that will be recorded from the Pakistani High Commission in the UK.
The development came a day after the Pakistani-American skipped yet another hearing of the Supreme Court-appointed commission,with his lawyer saying that he was prepared to record his statement at the Pakistani mission in London.
Ijaz had failed to appear before it on three occasions,the latest being yesterday.
The government will be responsible for making arrangements for recording Ijaz’s statement at the High Commission at 2 pm on February 22,the order said.
The arrangements should be put in place by February 20,it said.
Attorney General Anwar-ul-Haq,who represented the government at the hearing,expressed his reservations about recording Ijaz’s statement via a video link.
He said it would not be possible to gauge Ijaz’s body language and expressions over the video link.
The judicial commission’s secretary will travel to London to supervise the video link while the panel’s members and lawyers will question Ijaz from Islamabad.
The secretary will also collect all documentary and physical evidence regarding the memo from Ijaz.
Ijaz triggered a major crisis in political and diplomatic circles last year when he made public a mysterious memo that had sought US help to stave off a feared coup in Pakistan after the killing of Osama bin Laden.
The memo scandal also led to a tense standoff between the civilian government and the powerful military.
Pakistan’s former envoy to the US,Husain Haqqani,was forced to resign after Ijaz claimed he drafted and delivered the memo to the US military on Haqqani’s instructions. The government has denied Ijaz’s allegations.
Earlier in the day,the government wrote a letter to BlackBerry manufacturer Research in Motion seeking data of communications between Ijaz and Haqqani.
During today’s hearing,Haqqani’s counsel Zahid Bokhari strongly opposed the commission’s decision to record Ijaz’s statement via a video link,saying it would create prejudice if his client too is not allowed to record his statement through video conferencing.
Bokhari told the commission that US courts have registered four cases against Ijaz.
He said Ijaz cannot enter the US and that is why he keeps requesting the commission to record his statement in either London or Zurich.
In a related development,a parliamentary commission that is also investigating the memo scandal said it would not record Ijaz’s statement via a video link.
Parliamentary Committee on National Security chief Raza Rabbani said the panel had not yet received any statement from Ijaz.
Unlike the judicial commission,the parliamentary panel will not record Ijaz’s statement via a video link and Ijaz would have to come to parliament to testify,he said.