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Ijaz testifies via video on memo scandal

Feb. 23, 2012 at 12:33 AM   |   Comments

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- A central figure in Pakistan's so-called memogate testified a top Pakistani diplomat asked him to deliver a memo asking U.S. help to rein in the Pakistani army.

Mansoor Ijaz, a Pakistani-American businessman testifying through a video link from London, told a Pakistani judicial commission he delivered the memo to former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, at the request of former Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani, who said it was from Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Dawn newspaper reported.

"I asked (Haqqani) on whose authority he is doing this?" Ijaz was quoted as saying. "He (Haqqani) said this is from the president of Pakistan who wants to form a national security team similar to the one in (the United States)."

Ijaz had insisted he would give his deposition only from London, saying he feared for his safety in Pakistan.

In the scandal, which came to light in October, Ijaz was reported to have said Haqqani, who was forced to resign, asked him to deliver the memo to the U.S. military, seeking U.S. help in preventing a military coup.

Haqqani has denied the accusation. The Zardari government also has denied any involvement but the scandal has led to a standoff between the Zardari government and the powerful military.

Dawn quoted Ijaz as telling the commission he drafted the memo after Haqqani gave him notes.

The memo was delivered May 10, 2011, U.S. forces killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Ijaz testified Haqqani called him May 9, saying the army was thinking of removing the civilian government in Islamabad, Dawn reported.

Ijaz said Haqqani asked him to pass the concerns to Mullen with a request that Pakistani Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani be asked to step down.

The Los Angeles Times reported the scandal, besides creating tensions with the Pakistani military, has also increased pressure on Zardari, whose government faces a Supreme Court order to reopen corruption cases against him.

Ijaz cited his cellphone records to show he had a 16-minute conversation with Haqqani, the Times said.

Ijaz testified Haqqani explained several concessions the Zardari government was offering Washington in return for its help in preventing a coup, including allowing U.S. special forces to operate within Pakistani to track down militant leaders and eliminating a wing of Pakistan's spy agency accused of having links with insurgent groups in Afghanistan, the Times reported.

The report said Mullen had acknowledged receiving an unsigned memo but that he ignored it as he did not think it was credible.

Haqqani at one point was barred from leaving Pakistan but later left the country after the high court lifted the ban.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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