When Mansoor Ijaz Met Shuja Pasha
Memo-gate’s central character met with the Pakistani spy chief in London last month.
By Fasih Ahmed
NewsWeek Web Exclusive | Posted on Nov. 20, 2011.
Musawer Mansoor Ijaz spent four hours with Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the director-general of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, last month in London to go over the Pakistani-American businessman and citizen diplomat’s cache of alleged evidence against Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S.
According to our information, the meeting was sought by General Pasha following the publication of Ijaz’s op-ed, “Time to Take on Pakistan’s Jihadist Spies,” in London’s Financial Times on Oct. 10. Ijaz confirmed to Newsweek Pakistan on Saturday that the meeting took place.
In the op-ed, Ijaz alleged that “a senior Pakistani diplomat” had asked him to deliver a top-secret memorandum in May to Adm. Mike Mullen, the then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. While sympathetic to the Zardari-led government, the memo, like the later op-ed, urged the U.S. to get tough with Pakistan’s Army and “jihadist” ISI, which it accused of harboring Osama bin Laden and other most-wanted terrorists.
Ijaz subsequently identified the Pakistani diplomat as his former friend Haqqani, who maintains he had nothing to do with the Mullen memo. The ambassador, whom Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had summoned to Islamabad, arrived in the capital today and is likely to lose his job over the scandal. If Ijaz’s claims are true, Haqqani and his alleged Pakistani collaborators could also face treason charges, but this possibility—let alone that of a coup—is remote given the Army’s disinclination to be at the center of an even greater and deeply distracting political crisis.
During the meeting at the InterContinental London Park Lane hotel, Newsweek Pakistan has learned that General Pasha was “calm,” asked a series of pointed questions and kept taking copious notes as Ijaz corroborated his account. “The atmosphere was not antagonistic” despite Ijaz’s longstanding hostility toward the ISI, says a source privy to the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of offending the general. “Pasha seemed like an intellectually-sound man and while he grimaced and looked shocked at times, he did not give away how he intended to proceed, if at all, with the information provided to him.”
General Pasha did proceed. His boss, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, met with President Asif Ali Zardari twice this week—armed, according to a former government source whose accounts have proven accurate in the past, with evidence against Haqqani and Haqqani’s network. Facing pressure from his own Corps Commanders, the Army chief is said to have asked Zardari to act against Haqqani and at least two other federal ministers, both close aides to the president, who allegedly assisted Haqqani in his efforts to slander their institution. These ministers are believed to be Rehman Malik and Dr. Asim Hussain. Our source says that a fourth man, an owner of a Lahore-based cable news channel, was also involved in the apparent campaign against the Army and ISI.
The quiet campaign, say some U.S.-based opinion leaders including Ijaz, was launched to capitalize on post-Abbottabad tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan and to promote the civilian government at the expense of Pakistan’s military. Ijaz says the memo, which depicts Generals Kayani and Pasha as engaged in “brinksmanship” with the Zardari-led government, is a manifestation of that ambition. It alleges that the generals are aiding and abetting Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mullah Omar, and Sirajuddin Haqqani. Ijaz says the memo and the alleged campaign against the Army was predicated on deceit and further frayed U.S.-Pakistan relations. “If I had known this before Ambassador Haqqani approached me I would never have had the memo relayed,” Ijaz told Newsweek Pakistan.
In damning testimony to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee in September, Admiral Mullen said “the [Jalaluddin] Haqqani network acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.” However, a Pentagon spokesman, Capt. John Kirby, told Newsweek Pakistan that “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.”
AmPak relations have improved. On her visit to Islamabad last month, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton disowned the admiral’s Senate statement and, quoting General Kayani, said both countries were now “90 to 95 percent on the same page.”
But members of Zardari’s government aren’t. Contradicting Haqqani, interior minister Malik confirmed yesterday that Haqqani and Ijaz did exchange text messages discussing the Mullen memo and its fallout. “This is communication through SMS by two individuals,” he is quoted by the wire service AFP as saying. “One is an American national and the second is our ambassador.”
The revelation of Ijaz’s meeting with General Pasha will undoubtedly be construed by an increasingly bewildered number of loyalists and sympathizers of the civilian government as a plot against democracy. In a meeting with party officials on Friday, Zardari said the Mullen memo controversy was a “conspiracy” against his government and that there was nothing to worry about. But the gaffe-prone defense minister Ahmed Mukhtar raised alarm when he said today that the scandal could also hit Prime Minister Gilani. It seems that Mukhtar, as usual, didn’t get the office memo.
When Mansoor Ijaz Met Shuja Pasha