Haqqani sought US help for COAS removal
ISLAMABAD: Mansoor Ijaz, the man who set off the memo scandal in October, made a much-awaited testimony on Wednesday before the commission constituted by the Supreme Court.
Testifying through video link from London, Ijaz said he had delivered a secret memo to then US joint chiefs of staff enlisting Washington’s help to pre-empt a feared coup against the government in Islamabad on the request of Husain Haqqani, the former ambassador to the United States, who “told me it is from the President (Asif Zardari).
The commission comprised Balochistan High Court Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, Sindh High Court Chief Justice Musheer Alam and Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman.
“I asked (Haqqani) on whose authority he is doing this?” Ijaz said.
“He (Haqqani) said this is from the president of Pakistan who wants to form a national security team similar to the one in USA,” he added.
Ijaz told the commission that he drafted the memo after Haqqani gave him notes and requested that it should be delivered to Admiral Mike Mullen.
The memo was delivered on May 10, one week after the assassination of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad by a US Navy squad.
He said Haqqani called him on May 9 and said the army was thinking of removing the civilian government.
“The army wants to topple our government,” Ijaz quoted Haqqani as saying.
He said Haqqani asked him to convey this apprehension to Admiral Mullen and request him to ask Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to step down.
Ijaz claimed that Haqqani had given him points to be communicated to Mike Mullen, which included assurances on giving the US administration the choice of selecting members of a commission to probe Osama’s presence in Abbottabad.
The envoy also offered that if Gen Kayani stepped down, Islamabad would help Washington in locating other bad guys and “we also commit American boots on the ground”, the American businessman of Pakistan origin said.
“He (Haqqani) further offered that Pakistan would agree on an additional discipline as regard to the nuclear programme,” Ijaz said.
Ijaz told the commission that Mr Haqqani was in touch with him through BBM and cellphone.
Mr Haqqani insisted that a new thinking was emerging in Pakistan and like-minded people like former army chief Gen Jahangir Karamat and Gen Mehmud Ali Durrani wanted to reconstruct relationship with the US. The like-minded people would be included in the new set-up.
Mr Ijaz said Mr Haqqani told him that President Zardari was issuing directions to him for setting up a national security team similar to the US national security organisation.
He said that in return for the removal of General Kayani, Mr Haqqani offered elimination of section ‘S’ of Inter Services Intelligence, assisting in locating bad guys like Mullah Omar and Aiman Al-Zawahiri, committed more US boots on the Pakistani soil, access to three wives of Osama bin Laden and cooperation in investigation into the Mumbai terror attacks.
Due to sensitivity of the matter Mr Haqqani suggested code word — ‘Ispahani’ (the name of his wife) for the US administration and ‘friend’ for the Pakistani government — for their communication.
Mr Ijaz claimed that in subsequent messages the word ‘friend’ was referred to the president. He said Mr Haqqani had requested him to keep the matter secret from the ISI and army.
He said initially Gen James Jones, former US national security adviser, had refused to deliver the memo to Admiral Mike Mullen but later agreed when Mr Haqqani also agreed for keeping the memo written rather than verbal.
In support of a claim of his conversation with Mr Haqqani on the phone, Mr Ijaz offered the calls’ record but requested that the commission should not provide other than relevant portion to Mr Haqqani’s counsel.
At one point, Mr Ijaz appeared to lose his patience when Mr Haqqani’s counsel Advocate Bukhari brought into notice of the commission that he was playing with his Blackberry set while recording the statement.
Advocate Bukhari expressed the fear that Mr Ijaz might tamper with the evidence in his handset and requested the commission to direct its secretary to take it into his custody.
He challenged that the contents of BBM provided by Mr Ijaz in support of his claim were also forged and tampered with.He requested the commission to decide his three applications for getting the forensic tests of Mr Ijaz’s evidence, provide him evidence and memo-related record and facilitate his visit to London before cross-examining Mr Ijaz.
The commission put off the proceedings to Thursday and directed Advocate Bukhari to conclude his arguments before mid-break because it would resume recording of Mr Ijaz’s statement after that.
The commission directed Mr Ijaz to ensure his availability till the time he would be cross-examined and told him that his testimony would not be admissible in any way if he failed to be cross-examined.
Attorney General Molvi Anwarul Haq told the commission that under the law of evidence the authenticity of electronic devices was subject to forensic reports.
He informed the commission that the RIM once again declined to give BBM record of Mr Ijaz and Mr Haqqani because of privacy rights.
Retrieval of data: Mansoor Ijaz told the commission that retrieval of Blackberry messengers’ data was not possible because the company does not retain the record for more than three months.
Mr Ijaz told the commission that he had surrendered his privacy rights and his American attorney also contacted the Research in Motion (RIM), the service provider of blackberry but RIM declined his request.
The RIM said that it could not preserve the record beyond three months. And if former ambassador Husain Haqqani would drop his privacy rights even then the contents of BBM could not be retrieved as the company could only provide the detail of timing and addressee of the messages.
During recording of the statement, Mr Ijaz did not add anything new to his statements he had filed in the Supreme Court and the commission on Feb16.