Memo commission's impartiality to be challenged
08 July, 2012
ISLAMABAD: Although other controversies regarding the Supreme Court have now superceded its controversial decisions in the memo case, lawyers for Husain Haqqani are preparing a strong rebuttal to what they describe as "ideological and political" findings of the inquiry commission headed by Balochistan Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa.
Sources say that the Supreme Court would have to weigh various factors, most significantly the precedent it might set and the response of international courts to its judgement, before proceeding further in the matter.
The good news from the government's point of view is the commission's clear statement that it found no link whatsoever of President Asif Ali Zardari or any other senior official with the episode, making the memo dispute a lot less significant than when it first surfaced. But if it decides to move against Haqqani, the Supreme Court risks creating the precedent that a foreign national's claims about the patriotism or loyalty to the state of a Pakistani citizen can be taken seriously and could open the floodgates of similar allegations in future.
In its 120-page report, the memo commission accused Haqqani of not being 'loyal' to Pakistan but the evidence it cited was solely dependent on the claims of American businessman of Pakistani origin Mansoor Ijaz. The commission described at length its views on Husain Haqqani's political career and even quoted his academic book. But it totally ignored any evidence or questions about the credibility and character of Mansoor Ijaz, who has appeared as a commentator in a video featuring nude women wrestling and allegedly faces legal proceedings about questionable financial dealings.
"It is unusual for an inquiry commission to ignore what is said about the only witness making a claim but then going on to accept that claim," observed one legal expert. "As a fact-finding probe the commission had an obligation to go into the question of whether Mansoor Ijaz was reliable or not. Why has he been described by media in his own country, the United States, as a man with a childish vanity and a character in a spy novel that he has himself written? The commission should have gone into these issues but it did not."
By not examining Mansoor Ijaz's character and track record, the commission may have laid the foundations for Haqqani to challenge its report as reflecting predisposition against the former ambassador based on ideological and political differences. Haqqani maintains that he had nothing to do with the controversial memo and that Mansoor Ijaz has created "a well-woven story" by selectively using text messages and BlackBerry messenger exchanges unconnected to the memo.
The former envoy's legal team also points out that Haqqani was not given a chance to present his side of the case and the commission refused to put on record evidence offered by him, insisting instead that he appear in person in Islamabad. Haqqani, they say, has always been willing to record his statement and be subject to cross-questioning/cross-examination by videoconference, the method that was allowed for the witness on whose testimony the commission has rested its entire report. "He remains available to do so even today," observed one lawyer.
Haqqani explained the threats to his life in case of return to Pakistan in a letter to the chief justice of Pakistan on March 28.
Although much has been made of BlackBerry messenger exchanges between Haqqani and Mansoor Ijaz, the accuser's main claim that Haqqani discussed the memo with him on the phone remains unproved and possibly unproveable. In its 120-page report, the commission headed by Qazi Faez Isa fails to explain how Mansoor Ijaz's claim that Haqqani asked him to send the memo on phone is "incontrovertible" evidence. There is no confirmation or corroboration of the content of the phone call as narrated by Mansoor Ijaz. Similarly, there is no evidence of what was said in the phone calls between Mansoor Ijaz and General James Jones.
Another major lacuna in the commission's fact-finding effort, according to knowledgeable observers, is its failure to find out General Jones' version of events. The offer of videoconference facility that enabled foreign national Mansoor Ijaz to record statement should also have been made to foreign nationals General James Jones and Admiral Michael Mullen if the real purpose of the commission was solely to determine facts.
According to a lawyer, "By failing to make that effort, the commission showed disinterest in determining facts and confirmed that it only sought to record and affirm Mansoor Ijaz's account and set out to attack and question Haqqani's motives, intentions and actions, which appears political rather than a genuine quest for facts."
The commission also ignored acknowledgement by Mansoor Ijaz of never having met Haqqani since 2009 and having met him no more than a dozen times in 10 years while accepting his claim of a close relationship with the former ambassador. Haqqani says that he has met Ijaz no more than three or four times and that he received thousands of emails from hundreds of individuals, of which Mansoor Ijaz was one. There is no message or email from Haqqani to Ijaz that shows Haqqani asking the controversial American businessman to pass on any message on his behalf.