Ijaz gets Pak visa, to travel on January 24

Islamabad: Controversial Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz, who made public the mysterious memo that triggered a row between the government and the military, has been issued a visa so that he can travel to Islamabad to testify before a judicial commission investigating the issue.

Ijaz, who lives mainly in Europe, was issued a visa by the Pakistani Embassy at Berne in Switzerland and will travel to Pakistan on January 24 to appear before the Supreme Court-appointed commission, TV news channels reported today.

The reports said Ijaz would fly from London to Chaklala military airbase in Rawalpindi in a special aircraft on January 24. There was no official word whatsoever on the development. Till recently, the Foreign Office had said that Ijaz had not applied for a visa at any Pakistani mission though instructions had been issued to clear his application speedily.

Ijaz failed to make a scheduled appearance before the judicial commission on Monday. Ijaz`s lawyer Akram Sheikh had then claimed he had deferred his travel plans due to security concerns. The commission subsequently directed him to appear before it on January 24.

The Pakistani-American businessman created a storm in Pakistan`s political and diplomatic circles after he claimed in October last year that he drafted and delivered a memo on the instructions of former Pakistani envoy to the US Husain Haqqani to then US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen.

The alleged memo sought US help to stave off a feared coup in Pakistan after the killing of Osama bin Laden by American special forces in May last year.

Acting on a batch of petitions, including one from main opposition PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, the apex court ordered a three-judge commission to investigate the memo scandal.

Ijaz has been described as the star witness for the commission but doubts and confusion have surrounded his plans to travel to Pakistan. After he claimed that he and his family had received threats, the commission ordered that police and army soldiers should be deployed to guard him when he arrived in Islamabad.

Haqqani`s lawyer Zahid Bokhari has contended that Ijaz does not intend to come to Pakistan and is setting unnecessary conditions for appearing before the commission.

Bokhari has said that Ijaz`s lawyer Akram Sheikh does not possess a formal letter authorising him to act on Ijaz`s behalf. Bokhari has requested the commission to ensure that Ijaz remains in Pakistan till the panel concludes its proceedings.

Meanwhile, Geo News channel reported today that Ijaz had told a French newspaper that people who were trying to prevent his visit to Pakistan were wasting their time. He said he had more evidence regarding the memo, including recordings of mobile phone conversations, which he would present to the commission.

In a related development, additional sessions judge Wajahat Hussain of Islamabad today reserved his verdict on an application seeking the registration of a case against Ijaz in a police station.

The petition was filed by workers of the ruling Pakistan People`s Party, who contended the court should direct police to file a case against Ijaz for his alleged role in inciting people against the government and in harming the image of Pakistani state institutions.