Ijaz to appear before Pak panel

Islamabad: Controversial Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz will testify before a judicial commission investigating the memo scandal on January 16 and a Pakistan Army unit will be deployed to protect him while he is in the country, his lawyer said today.

"Mansoor Ijaz will appear before the commission on January 16 to record his statement," Akram Sheikh, Ijaz`s counsel, told the media at the completion of the panel`s proceedings. The commission has issued orders for Ijaz to be provided complete security while he is in Pakistan, Sheikh said. "Besides the Islamabad Police, a Pakistan army unit will be assigned to protect him," he said.

"Mansoor Ijaz is coming to Pakistan to lift the curtain on the truth and everything will come out in the open. His security cannot be left to the government as he is coming to give evidence against the government," Sheikh said. Ijaz had sought protection as he had received "serious threats" and as he was coming to Pakistan to provide evidence "that may not be liked by persons in the federal government", Sheikh claimed.

He further claimed that Ijaz had received threats from the same email addresses that were used for Ijaz`s communications with Husain Haqqani, Pakistan`s former envoy to the US. Haqqani was forced to resign last year after Ijaz made public an alleged memo that had sought US help to prevent a possible military takeover in Pakistan after the killing of Osama bin Laden on May 2.

Ijaz has claimed that he drafted and delivered the memo to the former US military chief on the instructions of Haqqani. The Pakistan government has dismissed Ijaz`s claims and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has described the alleged memo as a "piece of paper". The government challenged the Supreme Court?s jurisdiction to look into the memo issue but the court formed a three-judge commission to investigate the scandal.

During today`s proceedings, the commission directed the government to issue a multiple-entry visa to Ijaz so that he could come to Pakistan and appear before the panel. Sheikh said the commission had directed authorities not to attach any conditions for issuing the visa to Ijaz. The panel also directed authorities to increase security for Haqqani. Balochistan High Court Chief Justice Qazi Faiz Eesa, who heads the commission, said every institution is answerable to the panel.

PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and Haqqani appeared before the commission today. Sharif submitted a written statement to the commission through his lawyer while Haqqani reiterated his assertion that he was not involved in drafting or delivering the memo. Haqqani said he had been "falsely accused" by Ijaz of being the person who communicated the contents of the memo. The army`s Judge Advocate General`s department informed the panel that the army chief could not appear as he was on an official visit to China.

Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha sent a letter that said he would appear before the commission if the proceedings were conducted in-camera. Chief Justice Eesa raised questions about the ISI chief`s request and asked why he wanted proceedings to be held behind closed doors. He asked the ISI chief to send the information in his possession in a sealed envelope, following which the commission would decide on his request.