James Jones said, he was the intermediary who delivered to former military chief Admiral Mike Mullen a secret memorandum that he received from Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz and delivered it to Mullen in May. Mansoor Ijaz claims that he drafted the memo on the instructions of Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani, a charge denied by the envoy [who in the meanwhile has resigned]. Jones, was the NSA of President Barack Obama from January 2009 to October 2010.. Haqqani has been at the centre of what the media is referring to as the “Memogate” controversy since Mr. Ijaz claimed last month that the memo delivered to Mr. Mullen had sought American assistance to prevent a possible military takeover in the wake of the US raid that allegedly killed Osama bin Laden on May 2 this year.
THE (ULTIMATE) BELTWAY INSIDER
by Fasih Ahmed | The Newsweek
In the days between Admiral Mullen’s testimony to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee in September—in which he said the “[Jalaluddin] Haqqani network acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency”—and the publication of his October op-ed, Ijaz says an exhausted Haqqani sounded him out on another matter.
“He was ready to call it quits,” claims Ijaz, who urged the ambassador to “hang in there.”
But what made Ijaz go rogue? Ijaz says he wrote the op-ed in reaction to the “harsh treatment” of Admiral Mullen by Pakistan’s media after his Senate testimony. “I opened the piece with the brief anecdote of what had been done in May to highlight the tangible actions that had been taken to deal with the growing interference and threat posed by extremist segments of the military and intelligence communities in Pakistan,” says Ijaz.
TURN OF THE SCREW
Haqqani, he claims, wasn’t happy about the piece and texted Ijaz minutes after it was posted online: “Your FT op-ed is a disaster.” Ijaz claims Haqqani followed up with a phone call seeking to know if there was another “senior Pakistani diplomat” in Ijaz’s orbit who could be used to throw off the scent. This angered Ijaz.
It didn’t help when, on Oct. 28, Pakistan’s Foreign Office tried to put out the ensuing media fires, dismissing Ijaz’s account as “a total fabrication.” It said: “The idea of employing a private individual to convey a message to a foreign government, circumventing established official channels of communication, defies belief. The insinuations and assertions in the fictitious story are devoid of any credence and are emphatically rejected.”
The next day, the president’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar issued a yet more vigorous denial, deriding Ijaz as a fantasist. “Ijaz’s allegation is nothing more than a desperate bid by an individual, whom recognition and credibility have eluded, to seek media attention through concocted stories. Why would the president of Pakistan choose a private person of questionable credentials to carry a letter to U.S. officials? It is rather surprising that responsible media outlets gave so much attention to Mansoor’s allegation without questioning the veracity of his claims.”
Ijaz’s claims can seem a little O.T.T. Among other things, he takes credit for Musharraf’s Agra visit, for blowing the whistle on the A. Q. Khan network, and for negotiating a ceasefire in Kashmir. But the personal, political, and financial documents and data that Ijaz provided exclusively to Newsweek Pakistan establish his involvement in these and several other citizen-diplomatic initiatives as well as his proximity to power.
Ijaz’s headstrong nature can rub some people the wrong way. In 2003’s Losing Bin Laden: How Bill Clinton’s Failures Unleashed Global Terror, Richard Miniter writes: “Some of Clinton’s national security aides now revile Ijaz as a Walter Mitty living out a personal fantasy; they cannot bring themselves to admit that he was good at getting foreign leaders to offer new proposals.” As a donor to the Democratic Party, Ijaz had become a Friend of Bill. They fell out after Ijaz went public with Clinton’s dropping the ball on bin Laden.
And not everyone in Pakistan agrees with the government’s uncharitable assessment of Ijaz and his utility. “It is unfortunate and unfair to question Mr. Ijaz’s credibility,” says Sartaj Aziz, vice chancellor of Beaconhouse University and a former minister in the Sharif government. “Being an American citizen of Pakistani origin, he has been quite instrumental and useful in acting as an interlocutor between Pakistani and American officials,” he told Newsweek Pakistan. Aziz credits Ijaz for the passage in the U.S. Congress of the Brown Amendment, which allowed Pakistan to circumvent the earlier Pressler Amendment and receive American military hardware.
For Islamabad, Memogate was a nonevent—until Admiral Mullen stepped in, and Ijaz stepped up his campaign.
On Nov. 8, Mullen’s spokesman said the retired admiral had no knowledge of the May memo. Ijaz believes this denial was orchestrated by Haqqani in order to save his job and flat-line a story that simply wouldn’t go away. He responded by issuing a huffy, lengthy press release defending his own credibility, and making public the text of alleged BlackBerry and phone conversations he had had with Haqqani on the memo and subsequent op-ed. Mullen, whom Ijaz has never claimed to personally know, retracted his denial on Nov. 16. Memogate was real.
“After becoming aware of the press interest in this memo, [Mullen] felt it incumbent upon himself to check his memory,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby told Newsweek Pakistan on email, explaining the revision of Mullen’s account. “He reached out to others who he believed might have had knowledge of such a memo, and one of them was able to produce a copy of it.”
For Ijaz, it had gotten personal. The day after Mullen’s memory-jog, he went public with Haqqani’s name in the Financial Times. “Had the Foreign Office’s denial and the Presidency’s denial and all these orchestrations of denials not taken place, there would not have been a need for me to come out and correct the record as forcefully as I did,” says Ijaz.
Sharing his account of Memogate as zealously as Ijaz has isn’t a simple matter of proving himself right or anyone else wrong. There’s business to protect. Part of Ijaz’s impressive list of political contacts has been built on the foundation of his financial success and in order to preserve it. He has had former U.S. government officials on the boards of his companies, some of which provide services and technology to the U.S. military. He could not afford to have the Pakistani caricature of him going unchallenged.
He also feels lied to. He now believes that post-Abbottabad there was never any threat to Pakistan’s civilian government from the Army. “If I had known this before Ambassador Haqqani approached me I would never have had the memo relayed,” he says.
In Ijaz’s view, the memo further frayed U.S.-Pakistan relations and deepened the Pentagon-Pindi divide. He alleges that Haqqani made a victory call to him after an afternoon meeting on May 11 between Pakistani and American officials. “He was almost gleeful that Admiral Mullen had agreed to take certain actions in line with what was asked of him in the memo and that it would all remain within the normal course of interagency dealings,” claims Ijaz.
Pentagon spokesman Captain Kirby told Newsweek Pakistan that no action flowed from memo: “Neither the contents of the memo nor the proof of its existence altered or affected in any way the manner in which Admiral Mullen conducted himself in his relationship with General Kayani and the Pakistani government.”
By the time U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—who had celebrated her birthday in 1999 at Ijaz’s Manhattan home—came to Pakistan in October, the kinks in AmPak had been ironed out after months of tension. Clinton disowned the admiral’s Senate statement and, quoting General Kayani, said both countries were now “90 to 95 percent on the same page.”
Most outside observers view Pakistan’s Army and the ISI warily because of their undeserved (and self-propagated) reputation as omnipresent and omnipotent. The military and its agencies can sometimes inspire irrational and overblown fear.
Take the recent Bloomberg Businessweek piece on Memogate. “Like many people who know Haqqani,” writes Jeffrey Goldberg, “I feared that he would be met at the airport by a Benigno Aquino-type arrival ceremony.” Aquino, an opposition leader of the Philippines, was gunned down on the Manila International Airport tarmac after he returned from self-exile in 1983. Haqqani is an able and likeable man, but he is no Aquino; and Pakistan can be a cruel and punishing life, but it is not Marcos’s Philippines. The report suggests an elaborate ISI plot, of exactly the sort the lumbering agency is incapable of ever executing, to get Haqqani, and Zardari. But, it states, “Haqqani had no intention to go quietly. ‘Someone’s game plan was to scare me and my president into submission without a fight.’”
After everything that he now knows, does Ijaz still subscribe to the prescriptions contained in the Mullen memo? Even if he is angered and vexed by the alleged official cover-up, can he still appreciate the ambition to recalibrate the often precarious civil-military balance in Pakistan?
“You have a civilian government with some very intelligent people who may be attempting to achieve an objective that may not be achievable, and that is to get the civilian institutions to control the activities and the behavior of the ISI and the military,” says Ijaz. “That all works if you have a Mandela-type figure at the top of your government on the civilian side, but it all falls apart if you have a Zardari-type figure.”
America’s patience “for the misdeeds and machinations of Pakistan’s political leaders” has run out, says Ijaz. “We do not need the aggravation of further manipulation at the hands of Islamabad’s disingenuous rulers—or disingenuous U.S. bureaucrats who hide the sins of foreign diplomats so they can get any sliver of America’s agenda executed.”
Ijaz doesn’t doubt Zardari’s, or Haqqani’s, patriotism. He maintains that when he was asked to forward the memo, Haqqani allegedly claimed to have the “boss’s approval” to do so. Now, some six months later, Ijaz says he doesn’t know whether the president—or anyone else in Pakistan “other than Haqqani”—had any knowledge of the memo before it was delivered to Mullen.
It is his impression that the alleged Memogate cover-up has cost Islamabad credibility in Washington. “The frustration on the American side is fervid,” he says. “There is this acceptance now in America that the ambition of the civilian government to get control of the security establishment is never going to become a reality so they might as well deal with the Army, especially to bring some semblance of resolution to Afghanistan.” Ijaz is also concerned about what he calls a “cabal” operating within the Pakistani government which will “stop at nothing to misinform people in America.”
Sharif’s opposition party, PMLN, sees all incumbent civilian and military leaders as one big cabal. True to form, it has filed a petition with the Supreme Court demanding answers from everyone involved, including Generals Kayani and Pasha, hoping that Memogate becomes Zardari’s Watergate and Kayani’s Waterloo. Neither is likely.
Ijaz plans to arrive in Pakistan soon. But this is no victory lap. He says he’s coming only to establish that he’s ready to face anyone and cooperate with any inquiry. Does Ijaz have any political aspirations for himself here? “I have a comfortable life in the U.S. and zero interest in Pakistan’s politics,” he says. “What I did, I did as a favor for my friend, Mr. Haqqani.”
Mujaddid Ijaz died of cancer in 1992 and left each of his five children a separate message recorded on his deathbed. It took Mansoor Ijaz nine months to bring himself to finally watch the videocassette. “No matter what pond we threw you in, you learned how to swim,” Ijaz’s dying father said. “The brain God gifted you with will do no good to this world if you do not learn compassion for the ones who cannot help themselves. Go and help the people of Pakistan.” Ijaz believes his latest involvement with Pakistan does just that.
With Jahanzeb Aslam, Benazir Shah, and Abid Hussain
1. Where nonsense has a life of its own 2. The mystery 3. Secret Pakistani-U.S. memo offering overthrow of military leadership revealed 4. Imran Khan :: A. Zardari Barhi Beemari (Rampant Treason
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