ISLAMABAD – Akram Sheikh, the counsel for Mansooor Ijaz, Saturday sought ‘foolproof security’ for his client so he could appear before the commission investigating the memo affair but said Ijaz won’t appear before the parliamentary committee conducting a parallel probe as he was not bound to do so.

On the other hand, rejecting the demand of Ijaz’ counsel, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the central character of memorandum controversy will be provided security by the interior ministry as this was not the task of army or the ISI; and if directed by the parliamentary committee, his name would be put on the Exit Control List (ECL).

Akram Sheikh Saturday wrote two separate letters to Attorney General for Pakistan Maulvi Anwarul Haq and Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani regarding fail-safe security for his client to enable him appear before the commission to record his statement and cross-examination. The counsel stated that Ijaz has obtained visa for Pakistan and was finalising his travel arrangements and he therefore sought commitment from the COAS and the Attorney General for his personnel safety during the visit and assurances from the point of his departure from Pakistan.

In letter to COAS, the counsel wrote: “Unless I receive a formal commitment from you today (January 21, 2012) that exactly in accordance with the commission’s direction, army personnel are going to be directly responsible for Mr Ijaz’s personal safety and the logistic arrangements to that end are in place, I will not be in a position to advise my client to travel to Pakistan to appear before the commission on January 24 as his life will be under threat.” He further stated that “failure to immediately confirm your commitment to comply with the commission’s direction regarding ensuring safety to Mr Ijaz in Pakistan will render you in clear contempt of court, something that I will formally take up before the commission on January 24.”

In his letter to the attorney general, he referred certain paras from the commission orders of January 9 and 16. He stated that in response to his request on Jan 9 before the commission, the AGP had ensured that security will be provided to Mr Ijaz and if any additional security is requested, such request will be entertained. Accordingly, security may also be provided to Mr Ijaz by the personnel of Pakistan Army in addition to the security which the attorney general deems appropriate.

Akram Sheikh reminded the AGP that he had undertaken before the commission to communicate cell number of Battalion Commander for arrangement of security to Ijaz and equipment/evidence which his client will bring with him. He complained that AGP has not communicated any such number or name and also about the security arrangement to him till date.

He told the AGP that Dr Mujeeb-ur Rehman Khan, claiming himself to be Security and Counter Terrorism DIG called him and informed that he has been appointed for Ijaz’ security under a decision taken in a meeting attended by secretaries of interior and defence and others. Akram Sheikh said Dr Mujeeb has confirmed there shall be no other focal person for coordination with him (Sheikh) for security to Mr Ijaz and promised to fax me the details in writing but he has not done so till writing of this letter.

The counsel pointed out to the AG that interior minister has been repeatedly issuing statements which tantamount to threats and discourage Mr Ijaz from appearing before the commission. Since Mr Ijaz obtained the visa, the minister has been saying his ministry will be exclusively responsible for his security. “The very people from whom my client fears for his life and liberty are now trying to be solely responsible for his ‘foolproof safety’.” He asked the attorney general to immediately advise interior ministry not to get involved in the security arrangement and to confirm the same to him during the course of day (January 21, 2012).

“Ensure that direction of commission is implemented, in that army personnel are made formally and directly responsible for his client’s personal safety, commencing from the point of his arrival till the point of his departure from Pakistan… Confirm me the exact arrangements on Saturday,” Mr Sheikh wrote in the letter saying after such confirmation Mr Ijaz would finalise his travel arrangements.

Akram said, unless the AGP assures the interior ministry will not be involved or unless the Pakistan Army assures logistic arrangement to his client, he will not be in a position to advise Mr Ijaz to travel to Pakistan and if that happens, the responsibility will be on the government, prompting him to request the commission to record his client’s statement outside Pakistan. Not confirming commitment to comply with the commission direction would render the AGP in blatant and naked contempt of the commission, he added. Akram Sheikh sent the copies of the letters to the inquiry commission secretary, Supreme Court Registrar, AGP and Mansoor Ijaz.

Talking to a private TV channel on Saturday, Akram Sheikh insisted his client will not appear before parliamentary committee. He said the parliamentary committee was not authorised to summon Ijaz. Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNC) had summoned Mansoor Ijaz on January 26 to record his statement in memogate scandal.

Akram Sheikh said that if the committee wants to question Ijaz, it should seek appointment; otherwise the committee has no constitutional right to summon him. He further said that the committee can only ask for statement of Ijaz from judicial commission to make a record.

To a question on security of Ijaz, the counsel said it was better to contact Husain Haqqani for the security of Mansoor Ijaz than asking Interior Minister Rehman Malik to provide him security. He said that he was thinking to file a contempt of court petition against Malik for issuing threatening statements against Ijaz.

Meanwhile, Rehman Malik Saturday sent fresh threatening signals to Mansoor Ijaz saying that his name could be put on the ECL at the asking of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) probing into the scandal. He also indicated that the government could initiate action against him on charges of high treason under the Article 6 of the Constitution.

The interior minister, the other day, had publicly said that Mansoor Ijaz had also to answer queries regarding his alleged role for toppling the first government of Benazir Bhutto in late 1980’s. The political observers are viewing all such statements of the minister as a pressure tactic from the PPP-led government to stop Ijaz’s arrival.

Talking to reporters after inaugurating a public corner at Fatima Jinnah Park on Saturday, Malik said that provision of security to Ijaz was responsibility of the federal government. Responsibility of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was to gather information and not provide security to anyone, he said, adding, “Police, Rangers and other paramilitary forces come under the administrative control of interior ministry which should provide security to Mansoor Ijaz.”

However, he said “if the Attorney General asked to call army for his security, we will follow the rule of law.” He informed that he was also in touch with the defence secretary on the matter of security of Ijaz and he had also talked with AGP in this connection. He also said that the schedule of Ijaz’s visit would be made public as soon as the government came to know about it.

He told the media persons that Opposition Leader in the Punjab Assembly Raja Riaz wanted to appear before the PCNS to question Mansoor Ijaz as why he conspired to topple the government of Banazir Bhutto and levelled serious allegation against country’s premier intelligence agency.

On the other hand, US embassy in Islamabad has said that it would not provide security to Mansoor Ijaz who intends to appear before a tribunal, investigating the memogate. It said Ijaz was a common US citizen and he would be coming to Pakistan on his own wish and he would be treated like other US citizens.

The embassy officials said that Ijaz would not be allowed to live in the embassy. The statement is in clear contrast of Ijaz’s Friday statement that he had the US government support for his Pakistan visit.

Ijaz got his visa from Pakistan High Commission in London two days ago and said he was all set to appear before the memo commission. But, he refused to disclose date of his arrival due to security reasons.

In an interview with Indian television channel NDTV Ijaz referred to ‘threats’ that he said he was getting from certain quarters over his expected appearance before the commission. “They are random. The email addresses and so forth. Several of them were very specific. One or two of them were more blunt and broad based.“

“For me it just doesn’t matter who’s behind them. They are not going to stop me from coming. They can do what they want. And I say very clearly to the government, to those in the government, to the interior minister, who has made a lot of different statements and, sort of, veiled threats, and things of that nature against me, against members of my family... all this stuff is just hullabaloo,” Ijaz said.

“I am coming. I am going to tell the truth. I am going to make sure that the people of Pakistan, finally, are able to hold their government accountable for the actions that they take in their name,” he added.