ISLAMABAD: Questions posed by the Chairman of the Judicial Commission investigating the Memo affair, Justice Faez Isa, on the last day of cross-examination of principal witness Mansoor Ijaz elicited replies that damaged Ijaz’s claims far more than anything said by anyone else in the proceedings so far.
Ijaz has contradicted himself on several occasions but faced with well-worded questions from the bench, he simply could not get away with his complex and convoluted explanations. Asked directly if he had any corroborative evidence to show that President Asif Zardari had approved the delivery of the controversial Memo, other than what Ijaz says he was told by Husain Haqqani, the star of Memogate clearly said “No.”
“Mr Haqqani could have made it up so why didn’t you check with someone else just like you say you checked with your sources about the likelihood of a coup?” Justice Isa asked, exposing a major hole in Ijaz’s story. Ijaz unconsciously also invited great skepticism by giving an inadequate response to the Judge’s question about why the US government would not have known about the ground situation in Pakistan, and whether a coup was possible or not, and needed input from a private citizen like him.
This was perhaps the tenth time that Ijaz shifted his position as far as President Zardari’s role in the Memo affair is concerned. But even in relation to former Ambassador to the United States, Ijaz’s final observations weakened his earlier account.
Asked why he had turned against Haqqani he said that in September Haqqani told him he was resigning as ambassador and asked him to tell the Americans that they should consider him (Haqqani) their man “to solve their problems.” This made Ijaz realize, he claimed, that Haqqani was very ambitious and wanted to become a substitute to Zardari as Pakistan’s President.
Everyone noticed Haqqani and his lawyers laughing out loudly at this point. After all, was it not Haqqani’s loyalty to Zardari that has made him a marked man for Zardari-haters and was it not Zardari who was supposed to have asked Haqqani to send the disputed memo?
Mansoor Ijaz described Haqqani as “a Pakistani patriot” and expressed regret that he had lost a friend and had destroyed a “good man’s” standing in his “pursuit of truth” and to prevent a “cover up” of Pakistan government’s complicity in allowing the Abbottabad raid. But he had to acknowledge that his own government, i.e. the Americans, had never said that anyone in Pakistan had prior knowledge about the raid to kill Osama bin Laden and also that he had no way of knowing the facts but was merely speculating.
Justice Isa asked if he and Haqqani had ever met each other’s families, in an effort to verify the depth of their friendship. Mansoor Ijaz answered “No” and went on to add that Haqqani had not met his present or previous wife. He joked, “Haqqani might be meeting my former wife nowadays,” not realizing that he had virtually disproved his claims of a close relationship. When Justice Isa forgot to dictate this exchange to the Commission’s record-keeper, Haqqani raised his hand requested that this fact must definitely be made part of the record. A smiling Justice Isa obliged.
Haqqani has consistently denied and rejected Mansoor Ijaz’s claims about the memo and has also said that Ijaz exaggerates their acquaintance, which was only limited to his media appearances and articles about Pakistan. Unaware that he was affirming Haqqani’s position, Mansoor Ijaz ended up saying exactly that though he could not explain why he would go to the trouble of delivering a secret memo for a person he accepts as having met only ten times in his life. (Haqqani says the number of meetings is even less.)
Mansoor has been playing up his sporadic email contacts and some BBM chats as evidence of friendship but that will most likely be used by Haqqani’s lawyers to argue that he is the sort of personality that exaggerates everything.
The Commission wanted to know why Admiral Mullen and General James Jones had sided with Haqqani in denying Ijaz’s account over the memo and not him, Mansoor Ijaz ended up saying that it was because of Haqqani’s influence with the US establishment. But if Haqqani is so influential that he can make senior US officials whom Ijaz describes as his friends and whose honour he defends then why would Haqqani need Mansoor Ijaz to deliver a memo on his behalf?
Wouldn’t it have been easier if instead of telling General Jones and Admiral Mullen to lie for him about receiving the memo, Haqqani had given the memo to them directly as they would have been more reliable in maintaining deniability than Mansoor Ijaz?
Ironically, some of the emails introduced into the evidence by Mansoor Ijaz are also likely to help discredit his case. Ijaz insists that he was picked up to deliver the “secret” message because he had the right contacts but in an email produced by Ijaz and claimed to have been sent in 2009 he says, “I am not really part of the circle that matters anymore, either in my country or yours.”
Another email given to the Commission by Ijaz that contradicts his own story is from him in 2009 to General Jones, who was working then as President Obama’s National Security Adviser. Ijaz claims that the email was written because General sought Mansoor Ijaz’s opinion about Ambassador Haqqani. In his email, Ijaz had responded “He does not have the ear of anyone in the military intelligence establishment who matters.”
In May 2011, when he sent the disputed memo to Jones, Ijaz said that the Memo had the backing of some officers who had served in senior army positions and Military Intelligence. He told the Commission he did so because Haqqani told him that in a phone conversation. Again, why did Mansoor Ijaz who had himself told Jones that Haqqani had no influence with the military and it did not trust him, believe Haqqani so readily?
Mansoor Ijaz and his diminished number of supporters still seems to believes that the forensics on his handset will ultimately prove the whole affair. But Pakistan’s electronic evidence laws won’t be that simple to work around. Article 78-A of the law of evidence relating to proof of electronic signature and electronic document states: “If any electronic document is alleged to be signed or to have been generated wholly or in part by any person through the use of an information system, and where such allegation is denied, the application of security procedure to the signature or the electronic document must be proved.”
It is important to note here that any forensic experts will have only access to Mansoor Ijaz’s devices and not Haqqani’s devices. In any case, Mansoor Ijaz does not claim that the memo was created on any of Haqqanis’ electronic devices but seeks to prove his case through verification of BBM messages. Whatever he and his supporters might believe, Haqqani’s legal team is confident that Mansoor Ijaz’s contradictions coupled with inadequate forensic evidence will bring the matter to an end that does not favour Ijaz.