Judges investigating whether a Pakistani diplomat asked for American help in removing two senior military commanders has concluded that the former ambassador to Washington drafted a controversial memo which sparked months of intrigue.
ISLAMABAD, May 18: The memo commission completed on Friday its formal proceedings during which it exhibited the electronic evidence produced by American businessman Mansoor Ijaz in support of his claim of drafting and delivering a memorandum to former US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen at the behest of former ambassador Husain Haqqani.
At its last hearing, the commission headed by Balochistan High Court Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa recorded the statement of its secretary District and Sessions Judge Islamabad East Raja Jawad Abbas Hassan who had submitted the forensic report of electronic evidence – BlackBerry messengers and email exchanges of Mr Ijaz and Mr Haqqani.
The secretary was crossexamined by Mr Ijaz`s counsel Akram Sheikh and the deputy attorney general.
Mr Haqqani`s lawyers did not attend the hearing because the former ambassador had boycotted the commission`s proceedings.
Advocate Akram said the forensic report proved that Mr Haqqani had engaged his client for drafting and delivering the memorandum to Admiral Mullen. He said expenses of forensic analysis should be recovered from Mr Haqqani because the commission had sent its secretary abroad after his denial to the electronic evidence.He accused Mr Haqqani of paying $30,000 per month to American lobbyists Harlen Ullman and David Frum from his $7 million discretionary fund for damage control after the memogate scandal came into limelight.
The commission`s secretary said he had asked the parties to submit their proposals for protocol for the forensic test of electronic evidence on March 19. Mr Haqqani and Mr Ijaz sent their proposals through emails the following day.
`I proceeded to London on May 5 for the forensic test of electronic evidence contained in laptop and BlackBerry handsets of Mr Ijaz and offered him and Mr Haqqani to send any suggestion or witness the forensic test at the Pakistan`s High Commission in England.
`I selected a British company, System Technology Consultants Limited (Sytech), for the forensic test because of its reputation, accreditation, cost-effectiveness and their promise for expeditious processing,` the secretary added.
He said the company had deputed two experts -Simon R Lang, a forensic analyst, and Mark Wilshaw, an internet crime specialist for the analysis of Mr Ijaz`s handsets and laptop. The experts started their work on May 11 and submitted reports, along with their affidavits, on May 14.
The deputy attorney gener-al asked the secretary under which criteria he had selected Sytech and how did he know that its experts were the best among others. The secretary said he had got information from the parties in the memo case and also checked through internet. Their selection was based on the cases they had solved in a certain period of time, he added.
Raja Jawad said he had informed Mr Ijaz and Mr Haqqani about the forensic test and also served notices on them prior to the forensic analysis.
The commission also took up an application of Barrister Zafarullah Khan who requested it to treat the evidence as completed and placed them before the Supreme Court for further proceedings.
He said Mr Haqqani had been found guilty after the forensic test and this was the reason he did not appear before the commission despite issuance of several summons.
The commission had summoned the foreign secretary, along with details of secret funds used by Mr Haqqani during his ambassadorship, but he did not appear because of his engagements abroad.
The commission decided to convene another in-camera meeting with the foreign secretary and announced the completion of formal proceedings of the memo investigation.
The memogate controversy (also Mullen memo controversy) revolves around a memorandum (addressed to Admiral Mike Mullen) ostensibly seeking help of the Obama administration in the wake of the Osama bin Laden raid to avert a military takeover of the civilian government in Pakistan, as well as assisting in a Washington insider takeover of the government and military apparatus. The timeline of events indicate that the memo, delivered in May, was still being acted on behind the scenes in October 2011; when Mansoor Ijaz wrote a Financial Times article bringing initial public attention to the affair. The memo, which at first was questioned to even exist, was published in November, leading to the resignation of Ambassador Haqqani and the continuing Pakistani Supreme Court investigation.
Central actors in the plot include Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz, who alleged that long-time friend and former Pakistan Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani asked him to deliver a confidential memo asking for US assistance. The memo is alleged to have been drafted by Haqqani at the behest of President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari. The memo was delivered to Mike Mullen by personal friend of Mansoor Ijaz and then National Security Advisor James L. Jones.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan has opened a broader inquiry into the origins, credibility and purpose of the memo and as of March 30, 2012 has extended their inquiry at least another 6 weeks. On April 19, 2012 a petition was submitted in the Supreme Court to arrest former Pakistan ambassador to US Husain Haqqani through Interpol for his refusal to return to Pakistan. On June 12 the supreme court commission released its findings and found that after testimony by all parties and verifying the forensic results of Ijaz’s BlackBerry conversations with Haqqani it was “incontrovertibly established” that Husain Haqqani had written the memo and was being called back to Pakistan to face likely charges of treason.
Husain Haqqani was forced to resign from the post in November after details of the unsigned letter came to light.
However, his supporters insist he is the victim of a smear campaign and a pawn in a three-way power struggle between the country’s judges, the military and the civilian government.
The idea that a Pakistani diplomat could enlist US help against a powerful military establishment is hugely sensitive at a time when American drones are pounding the country’s north-western fringes, and the controversy at one time threatened to bring down the government.
On Tuesday, a judicial commission concluded that Mr Haqqani had written a memo delivered to Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, in May 2011, days after the US raid to kill Osama bin Laden amid fears of a military coup in Pakistan.
Part of the report, read in court, said: “Mr Haqqani sought American Help; he also wanted to create a niche for himself making himself forever indispensable to the Americans.
“He lost sight of the fact that he is a Pakistani citizen and Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States of America, and therefore his loyalty could only be to Pakistan.”
The court adjourned for two weeks and ordered Mr Haqqani, along with a witness, Mansoor Ijaz, an American businessman who revealed the existence of the memo, to appear when the hearing resumes.
However, Mr Haqqani, who now lives in the US, dismissed the report as “political and one-sided”.
“In any case, the commission was created as a fact-finding body and not as a trial court so it has no right to pronounce anyone guilty or innocent of any crime,” he said in a statement.