Manzoor Ijaz a 'liar', allege US experts
Mansoor Ijaz, the man who has triggered off a political crisis in Pakistan, is a 'dubious character,' who is sowing 'seeds of dissension,' South Asia experts in the US tell Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC.
Former United States diplomats, leading South Asia experts, familiar with both former Pakistan ambassador Husain Haqqani and controversial Pakistan-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz, have denounced the latter as a "liar" and "blowhard."
Ijaz had claimed that he drafted a memo on Haqqani's instructions to the then chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen -- seeking America's help to stave off an impending coup by the Pakistani military -- in the wake of Osama bin Laden's death in a US Navy Seals operation.
Haqqani was forced to resign in the wake of the controversy -- termed 'Memogate' by the media -- and return to Pakistan. The issue has led to intense tension between the civilian government and the Pakistani military.
Ijaz is expected to testify before the judicial commission in Pakistan probing the incident.
Professor Christine Fair of Georgetown University alleged Ijaz "is a dubious character," and noted that "he has done all sorts of things that are bizarre."
Fair said even though Mullen had acknowledged "he actually got the memo, he thought it was so insane he disregarded it, didn't act upon it."
"This is really a trial by the media circus," Fair felt, and argued that "it's a canard that Pakistan's media is free and vibrant."
"It is the freest and most vibrant media that you can buy -- that the ISI (Inter Services Intelligence) can influence," Fair declared. "I know countless journalists on the ISI payroll. Anyone who knows Pakistani journalists will back this up."
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Image: Mansoor Ijaz
'An individual who has a certain reputation for exaggerating his role'
Lisa Curtis, a former Central Intelligence Agency analyst, State Department official and erstwhile senior Congressional staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, scoffed at the contention that Ijaz had unprecedented access to the corridors of power.
"I don't know about the access he had in Pakistan, but with regard to the US," she said, "he has made claims he met with US officials -- perhaps even in these Blackberry messages that he has handed over -- (but) in my conversations with US officials, he never met any US officials."
Curtis, who now heads the South Asia Programme at the conservative Washington DC think-tank The Heritage Foundation, said, "His only contact was with General (Jim) Jones when General Jones was not in his position as national security adviser -- he had already retired from that position."
"We can speculate on why General Jones decided to pass this memo on to Admiral Mullen -- I personally don't think it was a great decision -- but at the same time General Jones has filed his affidavit and he has said he has no belief that the memo was drafted by Haqqani -- he thought it was a personal effort by Ijaz," Curtis said.
She said she was deeply disappointed with the Pakistani media for "not exploring more on who is Mansoor Ijaz," because the entire Memogate case "involving very serious issues revolves around the claims of one individual who has a certain reputation for exaggerating his role, particularly when it comes to important US foreign policy issues."
Curtis recalled that when she was a diplomat based in Islamabad from 1994 to 1996, "in 1995, Mansoor Ijaz went to (then prime minister) Benazir Bhutto with information about a potential colonel coup that was being planned within the (Pakistani) army."
"Now Benazir Bhutto was smart enough -- call it woman's intuition -- to take that information and go straight to (then) chief of the army staff General (Jahangir) Karamat.'
'Now we can ask why didn't Mansoor Ijaz go to the army chief if this coup was apparently being hatched within the military?"
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Image: Then Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who Ijaz warned about a possible coup
'Ijaz is involved in sowing seeds of dissension'
"It seems that Mansoor Ijaz is involved in sowing seeds of dissension," Curtis argued, "and that seems to be one thing we can say for sure about him."
Teresita C Schaffer, a former diplomat with over three decades of experience serving in South Asia, pointed out, "This is the third instance in which I have been aware of Mansoor Ijaz claiming to have been an emissary or envoy trying to resolve some nasty international conflict."
"In each case, the US government was involved in some fashion and in each case, the people I knew who were involved in the issue, contradicted the claims Mansoor Ijaz made about the depths and effectiveness of his involvement," she said.
Schaffer, now a Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution after heading the South Asia Programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies -- another Washington, DC think-tank -- for over 12 years, said, "The US government for very good reasons does not want to make itself the story in this case."
"As far as the action is concerned," she added, "Admiral Mullen has confirmed having received the memo, having concluded that wasn't credible and having therefore decided to do nothing about it. That essentially is the only action that was taken by the US government."
"With the poisonous state of US-Pakistan relations at the moment," Schaffer added, "the US government would not consider that it was doing either itself or Ambassador Haqqani any favours by raising its profile and becoming to any greater extent than is already inevitable, a part of the story."
"So, you are not going to see a US government decision on paper on the credibility or otherwise of Mansoor Ijaz," she quipped.
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Image: Former Pakistan ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani
'Ijaz has been used in the past'
Hillel Fradkin, director of the Hudson Institute's Centre on Islam, Democracy, and the Future of the Muslim World, says he is a close friend of Haqqani's.
Fradkin is "alarmed" that Haqqani "now finds himself under virtual house arrest at risk of his very life -- a serious risk in a country which has in the past year already seen several political murders."
Fradkin said it was incongruous that Haqqani stands accused of betraying his country "by a man (Ijaz), who many people know and have known him for many years, who describe him as a serial liar and a con man active in these acts for nearly 20 years. His evidence (against Haqqani) is non-existent."
"In different times," Fradkin said, "these charges would receive no credit. Unhappily, in today's Pakistan, they do. This is not because these charges are actually believed, but because they are deemed in the present circumstances useful in the low and dangerous political struggles that now involve Pakistan."
Another South Asia scholar, Marvin Weinbaum, who enjoyed stints at the State Department's Policy Planning Bureau and the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and is now a scholar-in-residence at the Middle East Institute, described Ijaz as "a blowhard."
"My information is that he has been used in the past as an emissary," Weinbaum added. "It is not all fictitious -- that people in high places had turned to him and sought his assistance. So, it's not entirely that he's an imaginary figure here."
Weinbaum said he could not comprehend "why individuals would go back to him, given his reputation."
Image: Pakistan's supreme court