ISLAMABAD – The memo commission which held its fourth meeting on Tuesday appeared at risk of collapsing as investigators ruled out travelling abroad to hear the testimony of the star witness.

American businessman Mansoor Ijaz, who implicated President Asif Ali Zardari in a May memo seeking US help to rein in military, has refused to travel to Pakistan, citing fears for his safety.

Giving Ijaz one last opportunity to appear, a three-member judicial commission adjourned until February 9 and said they would ask the Supreme Court to extend their mandate, which was due to end on Saturday.

“The commission cannot go abroad because the Supreme Court has restrained Husain Haqqani, so in the same way, Mansoor Ijaz’s statement should be recorded in Pakistan,” said Justice Qazi Faez Isa.

However, the commission directed the government to ensure fool proof security arrangements for Ijaz during his stay in Pakistan and guarantee his safe return. “Ask the government to deploy a security team to make sure Ijaz’s safety as he comes to Pakistan and also guarantee his safe return,” the commission directed the Attorney General during proceedings.

The commission instructed secretary of memogate commission to personally receive Ijaz from the airport’s parking area. The commission also directed higher authorities of FIA and CAA to facilitate secretary commission in doing so.

The judges earlier summoned Interior Minister Rehman Malik to explain how the government could protect Ijaz.

“He will be given box security. I assure you that his name will not be put on exit control list,” Malik told the commission.

“I am stating under the oath that he (Ijaz) will be given full security,” he said adding that IG Islamabad, the Rangers and an army officer would be deployed in Ijaz’s security team.

The minister, who appeared before the commission on a very short notice, accused media of misquoting him and claimed that he did not threaten anyone including Ijaz, and said that he had just said, “If parliamentary committee orders to put anyone’s name (Ijaz) on ECL then the orders would be complied with”.

However, Ijaz declined to appear before the commission until commission makes sure that no one from the ruling PPP and its allied political parties, was included in his security team.

As the commission resumed its hearing, Akram Sheikh, counsel for Ijaz, found him in hot water as the panel asked him where his client was.

“Where is your client? We honoured you by fixing the date of your choice for the fourth meeting of commission. But you have failed to bring your client before the commission once again,” Isa asked Sheikh.

As an experienced lawyer, Sheikh accused Interior Minister Malik of threatening his client who cancelled his plan to appear before the commission.

Sheikh said his client informed him through an email that he had no trust in interior minister and security provided by the ministry.

“My lord, Ijaz fears for his life upon his arrival in Pakistan. He is under the impression that a security team with Rehman Malik as its head, cannot be trusted and there could be a serious attempt to silence him. How can Malik, who had (as a head of security team) failed to provide security to twice Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, ensure fool proof security to him,” Sheikh stated.

This is the second time that Ijaz has failed to make a scheduled appearance before the commission. Ijaz was initially asked to appear before the commission on January 16. After he failed to come to Pakistan, the commission acceded to his request to be given more time and asked him to depose on January 24.

Sheikh insisted that the army be the focal organisation for Ijaz’s security.

The counsel for former ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani, Zahid Hussain Bukhari, however claimed that Ijaz has ridiculed the commission by not appearing before it despite promising twice, therefore commission should withdraw his name from the list of witnesses. However, chairperson of judicial commission ignored his point.

The commission, at the end of its daylong proceedings, directed Sheikh and Bukhari to keep distance from media until the commission decides the case and adjourned the hearing till February 9. The commission also directed the secretary of memogate commission to request the Supreme Court to extend duration of commission by four more weeks.