LAHORE – As the Presidency and the ISPR have dismissed media reports regarding conversation between President Zardari and Army Chief Gen Kayani Mansoor Ijaz on the night between May 1 and May 2 last year, Mansoor Ijaz is thinking of requesting the Memo Commission to summon the president, record his statement about what had happened on the night when Osama bin Laden was killed, and let him be cross-examined by lawyers.
A section of the press reported a couple of days ago that it was the president who had allowed the Americans to carry out the operation to kill the Al-Qaeda chief in Abbottabad, ordering the country’s defence forces not to react as everything was being done on permission. The F-16s which flew to shoot down the intruding helicopters were called back.
Some newspapers also reported the conversation between the Air Traffic Control and the pilots of the US helicopters, giving minute-by-minute details of the operation.
Sources close to Mansoor Ijaz told TheNation on Saturday that a request for the president’s summons would be made after former ambassador Husain Haqqani’s statement before the Memo Commission.
The former envoy has already been told that his statement would be recorded when the cross-examination of Mr Mansoor Ijaz is completed. The proceedings are due to resume on March 15.
Sources close to the US businessman of Pakistani origin claim that the contradictions issued by the Presidency and the ISPR fail to rebut what the transcript had stated.
They said if the Commission granted the request, the president would also have to explain the contents of his article he wrote for the Washington Post on May 3, i.e. only a day after the operation.
In the write-up titled ‘Pakistan did its part’, President Zardari had stated that although Abbottabad’s was not a joint operation, a decade of cooperation and partnership between the US and Pakistan led up to the elimination of Osama bin Laden as a continuing threat to the civilised world. “And we in Pakistan take satisfaction that our early assistance in identifying an Al-Qaeda courier ultimately led to this day”.
Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleiman, in an interview to a local daily, had accepted responsibility for the failure of air defence on May 2. He said the entrance of the US helicopters in Pakistan’s airspace was not detected because the radars deployed on western borders were ‘not active’ that day.
He dispelled the impression that the radars had been jammed by the Stealth helicopters.
These radars are quite expensive and their maximum life is 25,000 hours. They need overhauling after three years.
According to knowledgeable sources, the statement recorded by the Air Chief with the Abbottabad Commission a few days ago is different from the interview he had given to the newspaper.
Prime Minister Gilani had appreciated President Obama’s statement wherein he had duly acknowledged Pakistan’s support and cooperation that led US forces to the hideout of Osama bin Laden.
President Obama had said in his speech that day: “It’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound he was hiding”.
Analysts say that relations between the civil government and the military leadership got strained after the May 2 episode and it was for this reason that a coup was being feared.
The military leadership was annoyed to an extent that the army chief and even the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee did not attend important ceremonies at the Presidency.
The venue of some important meetings was shifted from the Presidency to the Prime Minister’s House because the military leaders were not willing to go to the official residence of their supreme commander. On their insistence, the president had to come to the Prime Minister’s House to hold the meetings, setting aside the protocol.
Despite the fact that the army chief and the ISI chief filed such statements about the memo issue which were contradicting the government’s point of view, the ties between the two sides appear to have normalised in the recent past.
The PML-N leaders allege that the two sides have struck some deal. However, they don’t know the quid pro quo.