Ijaz refuses to testify in Pakistan

Ijaz refuses to testify in Pakistan

Mansoor IjazISLAMABAD: Citing unsatisfactory security measures and fear of being detained indefinitely, Mansoor Ijaz has refused to visit Pakistan and asked the judicial commission investigating the memogate scandal to record his statement abroad instead.

The star witness was scheduled to appear before the three-member commission formed by the Supreme Court on Tuesday. But his counsel Akram Sheikh submitted an application outlining Ijaz’s position to the judicial commission. The application said Ijaz had decided not to come to Pakistan as he had not received adequate assurances about his security.Former Pakistani ambassador to US Husain Haqqani, whom the American businessman alleged of dictating him (Ijaz) a secret memo seeking US help to curb the power of Pakistan military to stave off a potential coup, said on Monday that the right of Ijaz to depose before the commission should be withdrawn if he failed to appear before the panel on Tuesday.

In an application filed with the three-judge commission, Haqqani said Ijaz should lose his right to testify on the memo issue if he failed to make an appearance on Tuesday as he had already been given adequate opportunities. Ijaz had earlier failed to make a scheduled appearance before the commission on January 16. The commission then asked him to appear before it on January 24.Earlier in the day, Akram Sheikh told media persons that his client was not satisfied at the security arrangements made by the government and he has requested the commission to record his statement in London, Zurich or any place it may deem it appropriate.

Akram Sheikh said he had held a teleconference with Ijaz after meeting with Islamabad Inspector General of Police (IGP) and had briefed his client about the security arrangements, but he expressed his reservations and was reluctant to visit the country, fearing that he would be detained indefinitely.“No assurance has been given with regards to his [Ijaz’s] life or property. It seems like a well-orchestrated trap to hold Ijaz indefinitely in Pakistan after his deposition before the commission. Mr Ijaz refuses to walk knowingly into the trap being laid by the government and waits to speak the truth of this case,” he added.

Days before Ijaz’s planned visit to Pakistan, the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, which too is investigating the memo scandal, had issued summon to Ijaz to appear before it on January 26. Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Sunday Ijaz’s name could be put on the Exit Control List if the parliamentary panel desire so.Sheikh said Ijaz had also declined to appear before a parliamentary committee. “The committee can’t summon a foreign national and could instead, after taking an appointment from Mr Mansoor, record his statement in London or Zurich or use his testimony he gives to the commission.”

On Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s assurances of arranging the army for Ijaz’s security, Sheikh said: “I don’t trust Rehman Malik. I trust Husain Haqqani more than I trust Rehman Malik… Did Benazir Bhutto not die in this country even after getting security assurances?”Ijaz’s lawyer said that his client fears that the evidence can be destroyed by the Pakistan government if he hands it over to them. “Mr Ijaz has a concrete fear that electronic evidence in the memo case can be completely destroyed,” Sheikh said.  ISI chief lieutenant general Ahmad Shuja Pasha said last month that Ijaz had enough evidence to back up his allegations and called for a “forensic examination” of the memo.

Sheikh said Mansoor Ijaz even offered to visit Pakistan, if he (Sheikh) gave him his personal guarantee but he refused to do so. The lawyer added that Ijaz also does not want the security to waste its money on him. “So, he wants to record his statement while sitting in his office in London. He referred to Prime Minister Gilani’s statement on Sunday that the government does not want to spend billions of rupees for Ijaz’s security.Earlier during the day, Sheikh said he had written another letter to the attorney general seeking details of the security being provided to Ijaz during his visit to Pakistan. He also met Islamabad IGP, who assured him that security will be provided to Mansoor Ijaz.

Ijaz and his lawyer have repeatedly demanded that the Pakistan army be deployed to protect the businessman whenever he arrived in Pakistan. Ijaz has repeatedly claimed that he and his family were being threatened. Attorney General Anwarul Haq said on Monday the army had designated an officer to handle Ijaz’s security along with civilian authorities.But Sheik said Deputy Inspector General of Police Mujibur Rehman was made the focal person for these arrangements and police officials had said that they would seek assistance from the armed forces only if it was necessary. He said that by excluding the army from the security, the government wanted to deprive his client of providing valuable evidence linking President Asif Ali Zardari to the memo. Sheikh said, “Ijaz is ready to tell the truth and present all gadgets to the commission… We owe it to the nation to know the truth”.

The lawyer said he had informed Ijaz of “fundamental changes” in the security arrangements, which he claimed were a “stark violation” of the commission’s orders issued on January 9 and 16. Sheikh further claimed that even the Pakistan army had backed out on assurances regarding the provision of security to Ijaz. He claimed these assurances were given during a meeting of the army’s Corps Commander held on January 12. He also said that Nawaz Sharif, who took the case to the apex court, too has lost interest in the memogate scandal.

Months after Ijaz triggered one of the worst standoffs between the civilian government and the military in recent years, Sheikh claimed that the businessman did not “want to create tensions between Pakistan’s state institutions” and that he did not “desire any confrontation” between them. By alleging Haqqani in the memo affair, Ijaz has indirectly implicated President Asif Ali Zardari in a treason case. The scandal has already cost Haqqani his job but the close aide of the president has denied any involvement in the affair.

“Ijaz decided in Pakistan’s best interests that his statement should be recorded outside Pakistan. He is not a criminal that he has to appear before a court… He offered to cooperate on a voluntary basis and no court or commission has the powers to summon a foreigner,” he said.In his application Haqqani stated that Akram Sheikh has sought number of adjournments through his counsel Akram Sheikh on Jan 9, 2012, Jan 16 and Jan 23; he did not attend the commission proceedings without lawful reason or excuse.

The commission has accepted all his demands and even the dates are being fixed on the desire of Akram Sheikh. Learned Attorney General and government of Pakistan has arranged foolproof security arrangement in compliance of the order of the commission dated 9-1-11 and 16-1-11.“The attitude and conduct of Mr Ijaz clearly shows that he is playing with the sentiments of the nation and also wasting the precious time of the commission, despite the fact that the commission has acceded to all his requests/demands on all issues. Even the High Commission of London granted him visa after the office hours, to facilitate his appearance before the commission.”

“The act of non-appearance by Mr Mansoor Ijaz is based on malafide, ulterior motives and all his statements published in newspapers and aired through TV channels (national and international) are fake, bogus and untrue, which are also against the interests of Pakistan that is why he has not come to Pakistan to face/attend the proceedings of the Commission despite the repeated orders.”“In such circumstances, the justice demands to close the right of recording the statement of Mr Mansoor Ijaz, so that further proceedings may be conducted accordingly in order to finalise the proceedings within time frame given by the Supreme Court. – Nation