ISLAMABAD - Decisions by the memogate commission on how to proceed further could result in the entire memo episode being discussed in US and European courts, legal experts say.

The commission insists that former ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, should appear before it in Islamabad while Haqqani insists he being facing security risks should be allowed to record his statement by videolink like Mansoor Ijaz.

At its last hearing, the commission discussed the option of issuing warrants for Haqqani or for taking other punitive action in accordance with Pakistani laws. Implementation of any warrant against Haqqani would require cooperation from the United States government as Haqqani is currently in the US. Such a decision would open the way for Haqqani to challenge not only the commission’s decision but even the Supreme Court judgement that resulted in the formation of the commission before a US court. The commission maintains that Haqqani had assured the Supreme Court that he would return on four days’ notice if required when the court allowed him to travel abroad on January 30, after having restricted his travel for two months before that. In his application to the Supreme Court, which is still pending, Haqqani says that at that time the commission had not yet offered the possibility of recording statement by videolink, a facility that was offered to Ijaz after January 30 judgement of the apex court.

The Supreme Court has extended the period mandated to the commission by 6 weeks and kept its earlier order requiring Haqqani’s return ‘in the field’. It is expected to take up Haqqani’s application when his lawyer Asma Jahangir returns from an overseas trip.

Meanwhile, several legal proceedings against Mansoor Ijaz are also expected as a consequence of his statements he made before the commission. Ijaz’s claim of serving a foreign ambassador as a messenger violates US law unless he registered himself with the US justice department as a foreign agent. His comments about several people, including Americans, could also earn him law suits. Haqqani’s lawyers are already considering initiation of claims against Ijaz in US courts.

Sources close to Haqqani say that issuance of warrants for non-appearance would be a political setback to the former ambassador in Pakistan but it would have no concrete affect as he expects full support from US and international human rights organisations. Haqqani has not been charged with or convicted of any crime and his international supporters have consistently argued that the original restrictions on his travel abroad were unjustified under international law.

In a statement on January 25, The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) had criticised the travel restriction and had also questioned the legitimacy of the memo commission. An ICJ statement said, “There are legitimate concerns that in convening this commission, the Supreme Court may have overstepped its constitutional authority and that this action could undermine the ongoing parliamentary inquiry.”

If the commission issues warrants against Haqqani or takes other punitive action, he will most definitely seek protection from US courts against implementation of such orders. This could increase the confrontation of the PPP government with the judiciary but would certainly provide it with political ammunition as foreign courts examine and question legal issues involving the conduct of Pakistani courts.

The United States and Pakistan have an extradition treaty that can be used to seek the extradition of a Pakistani criminal living in the US. Under US law, however, non-appearance in person as a witness before a fact-finding commission without being charged with any criminal offence is unlikely to be treated as an extraditable offence. So far no specific crime has been identified as having been committed in the memo episode though some people have suggested that negative findings by the commission could result in instituting criminal proceedings against Haqqani for treason or undermining the morale of the armed forces. Even if the memo commission was a trial court that convicted Haqqani of treason, his extradition to Pakistan would be too difficult to achieve.