Had info about coup from 4 countries: Ijaz

Islamabad: American businessman Mansoor Ijaz has said that he delivered a memo to the former US military chief last year because the intelligence agencies of four countries had told him of the possibility of a military coup in Pakistan after the killing of Osama bin Laden last year.

Ijaz made the claim as he was cross-examined by lawyers as part of a hearing on Thursday by the Supreme Court-appointed judicial commission that is investigating the mysterious memo, which triggered a standoff between the powerful military and the civilian government last year.

He claimed he had obtained information about visits to several countries by the Inter-Services Intelligence agency chief Lt Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha, allegedly to seek support for a coup, as well as the reaction of army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, President Asif Ali Zardari and the military secretary to the President after the raid against bin Laden by US special forces on May 2 last year.

Ijaz further claimed he had obtained transcripts of the conversation between Pakistani air traffic control staff and the pilots of the US helicopters which flew in the commandos who raided bin Laden`s compound in the garrison town of Abbottabad.

He claimed the US pilots and Pakistani air traffic control were in contact before the raid, suggesting that Pakistani authorities had prior knowledge of the raid. He claimed that the intelligence agencies of four nations had told him of the possibility of a military coup, but did not specify the names of the countries.

Replying to a question from a lawyer while deposing via a video link from London, Ijaz said the information he had gathered was sufficient for him to believe that a military coup was "imminent". He said the urgency allegedly shown by Pakistan`s former envoy to the US, Husain Haqqani, too had supported his belief that a coup was imminent.

After this, he contacted former US National Security Adviser Jim Jones for delivering the memo to then US military chief, Admiral Mike Mullen.

According to Ijaz, he obtained a transcript from a senior unnamed official that contained minute-by-minute details of the conversation between the pilots of the US helicopters and the Pakistani air traffic controllers during the entry of the helicopters into Pakistani airspace, the actual operation against the al Qaeda chief and the departure of the US troops to Afghanistan.

Ijaz further claimed to have the transcripts of conversations between the presidency and the army chief`s official residence at the time of the US raid.
"I cannot disclose my sources even if the commission asks me to do so because it would jeopardise US interests," he contended.

He agreed to provide the transcripts in a sealed envelope to the commission`s secretary in the Pakistan High Commission in London. Ijaz claimed he had contacted Haqqani after the May 2 raid and offered his help and the process of drafting the memorandum began when the envoy agreed to work with him.

He accused Haqqani of not only trying later to persuade him not to appear before the judicial commission and of requesting former CIA officials and other former US officials to stop him from recording his testimony. He claimed he had received at least six death threats from unknown persons and an anonymous telephone call that he had informed the FBI about.

The commission asked Haqqani`s counsel Zahid Bukhari to submit evidence to support his client`s contentions. The panel further considered options for obtaining the data of purported communications between Haqqani and Ijaz from Research in Motion, the service provider of BlackBerry phones, which has already refused to hand over such data.

During his deposition, Ijaz revealed details about his two alleged meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari during which they purportedly discussed Pakistan-US relations.

The first meeting was held in 2005 and the second in 2009, he claimed. Ijaz claimed he had received an invitation for a third meeting but it could not be held.

Ijaz alleged the Pakistan government had intimidated him to prevent his visit to Islamabad to depose before the commission. Asked why Haqqani chose him to deliver the memo, Ijaz replied: "I was a plausibly deniable source to convey the message."