‘If needed, Army can be called for Ijaz`s security`

Mansoor Ijaz, who made public the alleged memo that triggered a storm in Pakistan`s political circles.

Islamabad: Promising fool-proof security to
controversial American businessman Mansoor Ijaz when he
arrives to testify before a judicial commission on the
memo scandal, Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Saturday
said even the Army can be called if needed.

His remarks came even as Ijaz`s lawyer Akram Sheikh said
he would ask his client to reconsider his plans to visit
Pakistan if the government failed to deploy at least a
battalion of soldiers to protect Ijaz.

Malik said the Interior Ministry will follow the
directives of the Attorney General, the recommendations of the
judicial commission and law of the land while providing
protection to Ijaz.

Ijaz, who made public the alleged memo that triggered a
storm in Pakistan`s political circles, failed to make a
scheduled appearance before the Supreme Court-appointed
commission on Monday.

The panel has summoned him in person on January 24.

The Pakistani-American businessman was issued a visa by
the Pakistani mission in London this week but doubts persist
about appearance before the commission that is investigating
the alleged memo that sought US help to stave off a feared
coup in Pakistan last year.

Malik made it clear that the ISI could not be involved in
protecting Ijaz as it is "not a security force".

A meeting between the Defence Secretary, Interior
Secretary and Attorney General would to decide the security
arrangements for Ijaz and the Attorney General would have the
final say in the matter, he said while interacting with
reporters here this afternoon.

However, responding to a query, Malik said that he will
follow the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on
National Security if it directs him to put Ijaz`s name on the
Exit Control List as had happened in the past.

"I cannot disobey the directives of the parliamentary
committee," he said.

The Interior Ministry`s Exit Control List contains the
names of persons barred from travelling out of Pakistan.

Malik said Pakistan People`s Party leader Raja Riaz wanted
to question Ijaz about his alleged involvement in the ouster
of the government of slain premier Benazir Bhutto and his
articles criticising the Pakistan Army and ISI.

Meanwhile, Ijaz`s lawyer Sheikh contended the judicial
commission had directed authorities to provide an army
battalion to guard Ijaz but the government had nominated a
Deputy Inspector General of police as the focal person for his

He said he had raised the issue with the Attorney General
and the Army Chief.

Zahid Bokhari, the lawyer of former envoy to the US Husain
Haqqani, who was forced to resign over the memo issue,
dismissed Sheikh`s claims and said Ijaz was acting like a
spoilt child and setting new conditions every day for coming
to Pakistan.

He contended that Ijaz was delaying his trip to Pakistan
as he had no evidence to back up his claims about the memo.
"So much hype is being created over this person who caused
infighting among state institutions. He is a foreigner who
wrote against the Army and ISI and yet he is being welcomed
like a prince," Bokhari said.

Meanwhile, the US Embassy reacted to Ijaz`s claim that he
had been assured of special security by the State Department
by saying that the businessman would be treated like a common
US national and will be entitled to the same facilities as
other Americans in Pakistan.

US has made no assurances to Ijaz about his security while
in Pakistan, the US Embassy`s spokesman said.


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