ISLAMABAD: The Judicial Commission probing the memo controversy on Tuesday gave another opportunity to US businessman Mansoor Ijaz to turn up before the commission on February 9 after Interior Minister Rehman Malik pledged that Ijaz would not be put on the Exit Control List. The commission also rejected Ijaz’s application to record his statement abroad.
Rehman Malik personally guaranteed that security measures would be put in place according to the wishes of Ijaz and even if the parliamentary committee on national security gave orders to put him on the ECL, the government would seek the permission of the commission before taking any such action.
Malik told the commission that the government could arrange for the secretary of the commission to have immediate and direct access to the airplane carrying Ijaz to Pakistan, for recording and collecting evidence from him.
Ijaz’s counsel, Akram Sheikh said his client was not ready to take security from any agency that fell under the domain of the Interior Ministry. The attorney general at one point even suggested that the commission could hold its proceedings in the lounge of the airport after Ijaz’s arrival. The commission ordered the attorney general to provide security to Mansoor Ijaz of his own choice.
Malik rebutted a news item published in different newspapers on January 21 attributing to him a statement that he would put Ijaz on ECL if the parliamentary committee so directed. The commission also inquired from the media whether any rebuttal regarding the statements of Malik had been published. Malik then produced before the commission a transcript of his talk to the media and also a CD. He told the commission that he had directed his media manager to immediately issue a rebuttal statement.
He produced before the commission a letter elaborating the security plan for Ijaz, which said he would be provided with the security cover of Islamabad Police, Federal Constabulary (FC), Rangers and army.
However, Akram Sheikh insisted on recording the statement of his client in Zurich or London, citing an email from Mansoor in which he had expressed apprehensions that Rehman Malik might assassinate him.
During an interval in the proceedings, harsh words were exchanged between Akram Sheikh and Interior Minstry secretary Khwaja Siddiq Akbar, who then left the courtroom. After the proceedings, the commission also directed that the lawyers would not talk to the media regarding the proceedings of the commission.
Earlier, when proceeding started, Akram Sheikh told the three-member commission led by Justice Qazi Faiz Esa that there were apprehensions that Mansoor Ijaz’s arrival in Pakistan could create a confrontation among state institutions.
“The attorney general had given an undertaking during the previous hearing that there will be a focal person appointed for the security of Mansoor Ijaz. It was also said that the focal person will be from the army, but a DIG has been appointed instead,” Akram Sheikh said.
Referring to the government’s inability to implement court decisions, he said 55 decisions of the apex court were waiting to be implemented. “My client has electronic gadgets with him as proof. If they are stolen, I will be left with no option but to file a contempt of court petition only,” he added.
Akram Sheikh said the attorney general could not satisfy him regarding the security arrangements for Ijaz. He drew commission’s attention towards some threatening statements of Malik, at which point the commission asked the attorney general to call the interior minister. Barrister Sheikh also told the commission that a requisition had been obtained from the National Assembly where a resolution may be passed to put Ijaz on ECL the same day he landed in Pakistan. Akram Sheikh said: “Interior minister and secretary hurled abuses at me, but I pardon them for God’s sake”.
The legal counsel for Husain Haqqani, Advocate Zahid Bukhari, said Ijaz was given many chances but he did not appear before the commission despite the fact that all his demands had been accepted. “Therefore his right of recording evidence may be closed,” he added. The commission said Haqqani in his resignation letter had himself expressed that he wanted an inquiry into the matter.
One of the petitioners, Barrister Zafarullah, endorsed the demand of Zahid Bukhari and said without wasting time, the commission should move forward to another source of evidence. All other petitioners, however, endorsed the application of Akram Sheikh and said the apex court had mandated the commission to collect evidence inside and outside Pakistan.
The commission was of the view that it had no objection to collecting evidence outside the country but there must be cogent reasons for doing so. Husain Haqqani submitted an affidavit before the commission stating that the two BlackBerry sets in his use were registered under his name, but had been paid for by the government of Pakistan. “The handsets were left in the US when he changed them in the months of March and April,” said Haqqani’s counsel.