ISLAMABAD – Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry Thursday asked Asma Jehangir to refrain from disrespecting Pakistan Army officials and questioned her as to why should the court deem a foreign general’s statement more credible than that of ‘our own men’.

The chief justice was heading a nine-member bench of the apex court hearing the petitions filed by PML-N President Nawaz Sharif and others on the memogate scandal.

Asma Jahangir, counsel of former ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani, read out former US National Security Advisor General James Jones’ to the court. According to the general’s statement Haqqani had no involvement in the memo, she said.

The chief justice said: “Instead of giving importance to our own people (COAS and ISI DG) why should we consider the James’ affidavit more credible. Asma said army chief’s team brought the memo issue to his knowledge and on that basis he submitted his affidavit. The chief justice said armed forces have rendered lot of sacrifices for the defence of the country and they have respect for Chief of Army Staff (COAS).

Asma said: “We also respect the army and are indebted to soldiers for their sacrifices for the defence of the country.” She said in fact the army officers rule while the soldiers are giving their blood for the protection of our frontiers. She said: “History tells that wisdom is not in the knees.”

The chief justice asked Asma not to use such insulting remarks for anyone. Husain Haqqani’s counsel said no one is infallible and everyone can make mistakes. Asma said that memo scam has become a bone of contention between the civilian government and the army. The government cannot take a tough stand against the army because it in a transitional period.

She said Husain Haqqani has resigned. The chief justice immediately pointed out that the resignation had been tendered in the presence of the president in that meeting after much thought. Asma reiterated that the memo is just a piece of paper and the court should not give much importance to it.

The chief justice said if the federation considers the memorandum just a piece of paper then why a key meeting was held at the Presidency, which was also attended by the prime minister, the army chief and the director general of ISI, in addition to Husain Haqqani. Asma said such meetings were also held at the time of your resignation but bar, media and civil society’s stance was that there should be due process of law.

Asma, submitting the record of the articles written by Mansoor Ijaz, said Mr Mansoor for the last three years has been writing articles against the ISI in foreign press, but what persuaded ISI DG to probe Mansoor Ijaz on an article appearing in Financial Times in which highest official of the country – the president – was involved? She said why did ISI DG meet Mansoor Ijaz in London without the permission of the prime minister?

The court observed that in that article allegation were also made against the army, adding it was the responsibility of the ISI DG to investigate that matter. Justice Jawwad S Khawaja said: “I still wonder from where Mansoor Ijaz has come and expressed his willingness to appear before the bench in this case.”

Asma said it was the same Mansoor Ijaz who has been quoted by a Hindu writer, who claimed meeting of Ijaz with RAW authority in Kashmir. Asma asked the bench that if you talk about credibility then how Mansoor Ijaz has become credible.

Justice Shakirullah Jan said if Mansoor Ijaz has such a bad reputation then why her client remained in contact with him. He said there was exchange of messages between Husain Haqqani and Mansoor Ijaz. Asma, reading out some portions of the Blackberry messages, said Mansoor was the person who seemed to be keen to contact with Haqqani but her client on number of occasion did not respond to him.

Asma insisted that memo is a political and not legal issue therefore the court could not hear it. Justice Jawwad S Khawaja said that they are not only judges but also Pakistani nationals, whose children are living here and in this perspective they could give relief to the petitioners.

Asma said Husain Haqqani performed his ambassadorial duties in very difficult times and made earnest endeavours for the prestige of the country. But in return he was disgraced. She said her client has been sandwiched between the two institutions. She said the court’s December 1 interim order has banned Husain Haqqani from going out of the country, which is against the constitution. Justice Saqib said that Article 15 gave freedom of movement within and out of the country. The chief justice said they have not stopped Haqqani from going out but ordered that he should inform the court before going abroad.

Asma also said that the memo was a figment of imagination of Mansoor Ijaz. She said that the memo had mentioned a national security team in the country, but “nobody has confirmed the presence of a national security team in Pakistan”. She claimed that this concept exists only in Ijaz’s mind as a national security team is present in the United States, and not in Pakistan.

Tariq Asam, a petitioner, in his rebuttal said that the contents of memo show that conspiracy was hatched against the sovereignty of Pakistan. It was violation of the citizens’ fundamental rights. Mr Tariq said Haqqani has termed him (Tariq) a doubtful person in his petition and prayed to the court to expunge those words. Asma said that she would file a written statement to expunge insulting remarks against Tariq.

Barrister Zafarullah pleaded that May 2 episode and memo scam could not be seen in different perspectives. Attack on Mehran Base and Salala checkpost was in the continuation of that incident. He prayed that if Mansoor Ijaz was involved in conspiracy then action should be taken against him. He said that except judiciary all the institutions have failed, therefore, the court should hold investigation.

Meanwhile Shafqatullah submitted a written reply through post. His stance was that the government’s resistance to the probe shows the involvement of some high officials.

Asma Jahangir, Tariq Asad and Barrister Zafarullah completed their arguments and from today (Friday) Nawaz Sharif and other PML-N leaders’ counsel would present their points of view.

Agencies add: The chief justice, during Thursday’s proceedings of the memo case, refuted news regarding the Supreme Court’s remarks on the parliament. The chief justice said that the court had said nothing about the parliament and impeachment of the president, and that the apex court fully respects the parliament and the president.