News DG ISI met Mansoor Ijaz in London

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Mar 5, 2010
ISLAMABAD: The identity of the mystery government official whom American businessman Mansoor Ijaz claimed to have met in a European city and shared his trough of forensic communication data with, has remained a key missing link in the memo-authenticity-chain.

Mansoor had also said that the gentleman was not a parliamentarian or a political personality. And he was right.

According to highly classified information obtained by The News, the mystery caller was none other than the Director General ISI, Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha.

It was revealed that owing to the sensitivity of the charges levelled by Mansoor, including the alleged authorisation of the controversial memo by President Zardari, it was decided at the highest level of the military leadership that the initial investigation must be carried out by the top spymaster himself.

When asked by The News to confirm whether the official who met him on Oct 22 was the ISI chief Lt General Ahmed Shuja Pasha himself, Mansoor Ijaz simply said: ‘Yes.’

Ijaz has been saying in several statements in the last few days that the full data and evidence was given to the official including records of phone calls, SMS messages, BBM chat exchanges, emails etc.

According to details, the meeting took place on the eve of October 22, in a Park Lane Intercontinental hotel room in London.

The meeting is said to have started around 6:30pm and lasted for over four hours.

The News has learnt that during the meeting, Mansoor Ijaz was exhaustively grilled over his claims and that Mansoor handed a fairly large quantity of records, both copies and originals.

The records were subsequently put through a verification process and once the DG ISI was convinced about their authenticity, he then briefed the army chief who ultimately discussed the matter in his one-on-one meeting with President Zardari on November 15.

The COAS, according to a highly informed insider, had impressed upon the president the inevitable necessity of Ambassador Haqqani’s presence in the country to explain his alleged role in the memo controversy.

After the Zardari-Kayani meeting, the Presidency announced the summoning of Ambassador Haqqani to explain his position to the “national leadership”, and not just the political leadership.

According to sources, the president had been fairly confident about stubbing out the matter for good in his one-on-one huddle but the outcome was not entirely to his satisfaction.

Not surprisingly, in the later half of the same day, the trouble-shooter prime minister called up COAS Kayani and set up a meeting of the troika for the very next day (Nov 16).

The PM, known for not harbouring any exceptional love for the beleaguered envoy, also thundered on the floor of the house that “Ambassador or no ambassador, he will have to come and explain his position.”

Husain Haqqani was not available for his version on this report as he was on a flight from Washington to Islamabad.

All this happened in a dizzyingly fast changing political environment, where only hours earlier the Presidency had contemptuously dismissed the claims of Mansoor Ijaz while shrugging him off as a man of dubious credentials.

What had really caused this paradigm change in the earlier recalcitrant official attitude is another revelation, made to The News.

The media may have been huffing and puffing with half truths and whole lies, dealing with an all-claiming Mansoor on one side and an all-denying combine of Haqqani- the Presidency-FO-everyone official on the other, and opposition politicians too may have been adding their voices to the slowly growing cacophony of those demanding an investigation into the matter, but these factors did not play the decisive role.

It now transpires that the ‘swift’ transformation of the official mood may have been caused by an official communication, quietly sent to the president over the weekend preceding the one-on-one meeting between the supreme commander and his top commander.

In this communication, the president had reportedly been specifically requested to order an enquiry into the memo issue.

The significance of this communication was not lost on the political leadership. Stonewalling was no longer a tenable option.

According to highly informed insiders, it has now been decided amongst the troika that Ambassador Haqqani (who will have landed in Islamabad by the time these lines appear in print) will present his version of the ‘truth’ in an all-important meeting restricted to the president, prime minister, COAS and the DG ISI.

The ambassador will be required also to respond to a set of questions already prepared in this regard, including why he has not even given an indication of suing Mansoor Ijaz for defamation and slander.

Interestingly, to date the Pakistan government too has not even shot off a letter of complaint to the Financial Times, let alone agitate legally, for publishing what it has itself been describing as objectionable material.

On the enquiry front, it is evident from the string of Mr Haqqani’s recent public statements that he will undoubtedly trash all Mansoor Ijaz’s claims and the civilian leadership is hoping that his ‘convincing performance’ would carry the day and that would be the end of the matter.

Any possibility of curtains being drawn after a maiden performance by the astute diplomat, however, appears a desperate pipe dream, as those demanding an enquiry are clear that the focus shall remain on substance and not the form. The situation is hardly being helped with new revelations adding new twists by the day.

The latest being the admission by US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta that he too was in the know of the memo. In one of the messages exchanged between Mansoor Ijaz and Husain Haqqani, Leon Panetta was also mentioned.

On Oct 28, 2011 Mansoor Ijaz wrote: Tell me one important thing. Who likes you and who hates you in the US establishment? Who wants you to stay and who wants to — you up?

Husain Haqqani responded: The debate abt your oped has caused my detractors to put pressure on my boss

He then sent this message: Husain Haqqani: In US estab, I can count on Leon and Petraeus

According to informed insiders, the decision has been made to ignore the obvious and to take the matter to its legitimate logical conclusion and in the expected event of Ambassador Haqqani flatly rejecting all charges, the civilian leadership will be asked to request Mansoor Ijaz to appear before the relevant forum (which could be the same as in this meeting) and prove his claims.

Apprehending a diluting of the issue by subjecting it to a deliberately slow and protracted investigation process, it has also been decided that Islamabad shall be ‘requested to agree’ to a firm cut-off date which must be limited to days, and not extended to weeks.

It has also been decided, The News was told by a reliable source, that if need be then the government of Pakistan will be asked to officially contact the Blackberry company to obtain certified data (Pin codes) and to “spare no influence, including cessation of Blackberry services in Pakistan, were the company to act reluctant in complying with the request”.

The source went on to state: “If so needed, the option of initiating a judicial enquiry and issuing a subpoena to the company would also be exercised”. According to details trickling out of Rawalpindi, the leadership there appears determined on two things: a) the memo issue carries risks of national proportions and therefore must be thoroughly investigated and taken to its logical conclusion and b) no politics would be played or allowed to be played in deciding the matter.

On the Islamabad political front, however, things may be progressing on a different tangent. It was learnt that initially President Zardari had favoured the option of relieving Ambassador Haqqani of his responsibilities in a bid to seek a swift resolution to this brewing major political crisis, but now he has been advised against this course of action by an ace legal advisor.

According to sources, the president was warned that an immediate firing of Ambassador Haqqani could be misperceived as the desperate attempt of a “guilty president severing a critical link” and he has been warned that such a move could also begin a domino effect that could reach his office.

In political terms too, the thinking on the hill is now favouring a strong defiant stance, not out of any love for Mr Haqqani, but for the sole purpose that were the Presidency to appear to have “saved its man once again from the all powerful military establishment”, as put by the source, “then it would garner immense indirect political benefit by appearing impregnable and immensely powerful and once again fence-huggers and even others will gravitate towards it.”

Playing politics, in what is an open and shut case of one party lying and the other telling the truth and simply making the guilty pay, is fraught with fatal risks.

Were politics to be played, yet again, it remains to be seen whether the non-civilian establishment will meekly suffer public humiliation and internal institutional discontent by backing down in a matter involving national security, sovereignty and the safety of country’s nuclear assets.