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Memogate turns ugly for ISI; embarrasses Ijaz as well

Last updated on: January 30, 2012 11:45 IST

Memogate turns ugly for ISI; embarrasses Ijaz as well

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Amir Mir in Islamabad

The Memogate scandal in Pakistan has taken a turn for the worse, with the central character in the controversy Manzoor Ijaz's refusal to appear before the judicial commission investigating the issue. Amir Mir reports from Islamabad.

As if Mansoor Ijaz's refusal to travel to Pakistan and appear before the judicial commission was not enough to embarrass army chief General Ashfaq Kayani and Inter Services Intelligence chief Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, who had submitted their affidavits with the supreme court of Pakistan while endorsing Ijaz's contention, the latter has now declared that whenever he testifies in the inquiry about the memo, he will not spare either the ISI or the military being an umbrella for the proliferation of extremism.

In an interview with The Christian Science Monitor, Ijaz was asked if Pakistan's traditionally pro-military judiciary should be doing more to probe his claim that General Pasha met with Arab leaders to discuss the possibility of a coup against the elected Pakistan Peoples Party government in Islamabad. he responded, 'You're damn right they ought to ask that question. If the supreme court is not willing to, you can be sure I will.'

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Image: Mansoor Ijaz's refusal to appear before a judicial commission in Pakistan over the 'Memogate' scandal has put ISI chief Pasha in the dock


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I am still against the Pakistani military: Mansoor Ijaz

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General Pasha has already refuted that he had toured some Arab countries after the May 2, 2011 Abbottabad raid by US special forces, which killed Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, to discuss a military coup against President Asif Ali Zardari.

However, there are many who are not ready to trust General Pasha's denial given the fact that the allegation was leveled by his own source -- Mansoor Ijaz -- as reported by the British newspaper, The Independent, on December 13, 2011.

There are, in fact, two pieces of evidence in Memogate which have been placed before Pakistan's supreme court. The first is against former Pakistan ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani (which has been investigated by the ISI chief) while the other one is against the ISI chief himself.

Both pieces of evidence had been provided by the same person -- Mansoor Ijaz.

In the first case, Haqqani has been compelled to resign as ambassad#8744 in the second case, General Pasha is still in office.

While justifying his interest in Memogate, Ijaz told The Christian Science Monitor that his actions have strengthened Pakistan's fragile democracy by helping to create a culture of transparency.

'Those people who argue that I helped the very forces that I have fought against for decades cannot comprehend the nuance of difference in this day and time. I still am against the ISI interfering.... I am still against the (Pakistani) military being an umbrella for the proliferation of extremism.'

In the article titled 'Who is Mansoor Ijaz,' Monitor correspondent Issam Ahmed wrote, 'A whistle blowing hero to some, a villain doing the (Pakistani) military's dirty work to others, Ijaz is above all a mysterious anomaly.'

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Image: There are many who are not ready to trust General Pasha's denial given the fact that the allegation was leveled by his own source, Mansoor Ijaz


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Pakistan judiciary's 'generosity' towards Ijaz comes with a deadline

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Mansoor Ijaz had refused to come to Pakistan hardly 24 hours before he was scheduled to appear before the judicial commission in Islamabad -- on January 26, 2012 -- to record his statement and furnish evidence.

The reasons for his refusal were that he fears for his safety and life since there was a security threat, both from the authorities in Pakistan, and apprehensions that the body of evidence he claims is in his possession to prove his allegations against Husain Haqqani and his 'boss' may be destroyed if it falls into the wrong hands.

Mansoor Ijaz's lawyer Akram Sheikh told the judicial commission that the assurances extended by Pakistan's attorney general and the judicial commission's instructions that Ijaz's security would be handled by the Pakistan army have not been adhered to.

At one point, Akram Sheikh went so far as to assert that General Kayani and Attorney General Maulvi Anwar-ul Haq would be in contempt of court if they did not follow the commission's orders.

Mansoor Ijaz's lawyer had given a commitment to the judicial commission last month, while seeking one more chance for his client to appear, that he would not trouble the commission any more if his client did not appear on the date agreed (which the judicial commission constituted by the supreme court and headed by Qazi Faez Isa was generous enough to extend at least thrice).

Ijaz wants the commission to travel to London or Zurich and record his statement in either city. But the judicial commission has given Mansoor Ijaz one last chance to appear on February 9, 2012.

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Image: Mansoor Ijaz's lawyer Akram Sheikh, seen here, sought 'one more chance' for his client to appear before the judicial commission
Photographs: Reuters

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Row over 'Stupidisco' has eroded Ijaz's credibility

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In response to this latest twist in the tale, Husain Haqqani's counsel moved the judicial commission, requesting him not to allow Mansoor Ijaz a chance to record his statement after he failed to live up to his earlier commitments to appear.

Although the judicial commission rejected this plea, his failure to appear before the commission has eroded whatever was left of Ijaz's credibility. The Pakistani American has been spotted in a music video, as a commentator for a women's wrestling bout that ended with a 30-second clip featuring full nudity.

It was unclear why the wrestling video, which was made in 2004 and has been viewed for years on the Internet, came to light only now.

Mansoor Ijaz told Associated Press that he thought the video's emergence was part of an effort to discredit him ahead of his testimony, but conceded that the video was not a hoax.

Ijaz appears in two versions of the same video for Stupidisco, a music track that was a club hit in 2004.

One clip features bikini-clad women wrestlers who end up grappling on a mat. The other clip has the same footage until the final 30 seconds, when the women remove each other's clothes.

Ijaz's scenes and dialogue feature in both versions. He said he had not known he would appear in the version containing full nudity. 'I did this as a favour for my wife's best friend, whose planned actor for the part did not show up for the shoot that day,' he said in a telephone interview with Associated Press from an undisclosed location.

He said the shoot took place in Brussels and that there was no other person available with an American accent.

'I was never present for any part of the video where those naked girls were shown,' he added. 'My wife was present at all times.'

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Image: A grab from the controversial Stupidisco music video shows Mansoor Ijaz as a commentator for a women's wrestling bout

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'Mansoor Ijaz can break all norms of decency'

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Husain Haqqani's lawyer Zahid Bokhari said the Stupidisco video shows that Mansoor Ijaz 'can break all norms of decency.'

'I think a man of that stature, one who can go to that extent for fame, can make up all kinds of false stories. I am really stunned by this,' Bokhari said, dismissing Ijaz's claim that the video was part of a campaign to question his credibility, noting that it was posted on the Internet a couple of years ago.

The bikini video was uploaded onto YouTube in 2009, with 376,000 views since then, according to that Web site. The version in which the women appear naked was uploaded to the DailyMotion site in 2007.

Commenting on the Memogate saga, the Pakistani newspaper, the Daily Times stated in a January 27 editorial titled 'Mansoor Ijaz balloon punctured': 'Here is a man whose desperation for being in the media limelight is rivaled perhaps only by his knack for making embarrassing decisions.'

'He is not a Pakistani citizen and openly admits his ignorance about Pakistan. Hence, he is an unlikely candidate to try and reshape this country's future and seems to have little interest in Pakistan beyond using it is as a prop in his megalomaniacal schemes.'

'How Mansoor Ijaz was cast as the central character in a plot to undermine Pakistan's national security and sovereignty is something that ought to be to the eternal shame of all those involved in creating the hysteria over the memo affair.'

'It is time to let Mansoor return to whatever else catches his fancy elsewhere in the world. He should not be allowed to hold this country hostage to his dangerous shenanigans anymore.'

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Image: Former Pakistan ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani, one target of Mansoor Ijaz's campaign


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