Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani. — File photo
WASHINGTON: Mansoor Ijaz, a Pakistani-American businessman, told Dawn on Thursday that it indeed was Ambassador Husain Haqqani who asked him to deliver an alleged incendiary memo to the then American military chief days after the May 2 US raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, seeking his help to avert a possible military coup in Pakistan.
Ijaz also said he decided to disclose the contents of this alleged secret memo because he was offended by attacks in the Pakistani media on Admiral Mike Mullen who, he claimed, was Pakistan’s “truest friend” in America.
Dawn: The Washington Post on Thursday quoted you as saying that Ambassador Haqqani “orchestrated the denial of the memo” and then interpreted your quote as “indirectly identifying” Mr Haqqani as the official who gave you the memo. Is it a correct assumption?
Mansoor Ijaz: Yes, Amb Husain Haqqani, whom I have known for over 10 years, was indeed the senior Pakistani diplomat who asked me to assist him in privately delivering his message to Admiral Mullen. And I have clear evidence in my Blackberry messages that he not only did everything in his persuasive, sometimes friendly intimidation, style to keep the entire saga under wraps, he actively – in my view – attempted to and did indeed orchestrate denials from each official body that mattered. When the Foreign Office denial didn’t work, he tried the presidency with a stronger rebuttal.
When that didn’t work, he got an unsuspecting and unwitting Admiral Mullen to deny. Admiral Mullen, honest man that he is, went back and checked and found out the truth, and duly issued a clarification stating the truth. Obviously, there were a lot of people in Pakistan – including the army chief, the ISI chief and the prime minister – whom he did not take into confidence on this matter.
Dawn: Did Mr Haqqani draft the memo? Did you also help draft the memo?
Mansoor Ijaz: Amb Haqqani was entirely responsible to the last word for the content of the memorandum. Its authenticity is in its content – I as a private American citizen living far away from the machinations of Islamabad’s politics – could not have known a thing of what he wanted to go into the memorandum’s contents.
The agreement we made was that he would talk and I would type. That arrangement gave him plausible deniability in those very tense days, and I was willing to take the heat at that time if it all went wrong. Today, with the magnitude of lies your government was willing to tell (or perhaps just out of sheer ignorance) in its public statements, I made a decision to air the entire set of facts and let the Pakistani people judge for themselves what the facts tell them.
Dawn: It was obviously a secret mission that you were entrusted with. Why did you go public? Why did you write that op-ed for Financial Times? And why more than four months after the memo was delivered to Admiral Mullen?
Mansoor Ijaz: Admiral Mullen served our country honourably for 43 years. When he testified in the Senate armed services committee about ISI malfeasance in attacks on US and Nato interests in the region, your press lambasted him and made his engagement with Pakistan – he was probably your country’s truest friend in America – a joke.
As an American, who has enjoyed the partnerships and friendships of some of America’s most decorated military and intelligence chiefs, I simply did not accept that Pakistan’s press would assassinate the character and reputation of Adm. Mullen for his right and true comments about the duplicities in Pakistan’s policies and actions.
That’s why I wrote the op-ed. As a journalist, you will appreciate that in op-ed writing, the thesis of the author – in my case, the policy prescription for how to handle ISI malfeasance – requires him to have some authenticity to say whatever it is he says in the piece. I alluded to the memo because I had to bring out the one sentence I cited about shutting down Section S of the ISI that Adm. Mullen had seen months before in reviewing the memorandum. It was only for this authenticity component that I opened my piece with the section on the memo. There was no other nefarious intent – in fact, when Amb Haqqani called me a few minutes after the piece was published, his only concern was that it would lead immediately to identifying him as the author of the memo. He asked me point blank who were the other senior people I knew in Pakistan so he could put the press off on a wild goose chase.
There was an element of pre-meditation in everything Husain Haqqani did in this saga – not from me, but from him. The timing of the op-ed piece was simply set after the hearings in which Admiral Mullen appeared on Sept 22nd. I wrote the piece on the 23rd of September but because of the Eurozone’s financial meltdown, it was nearly impossible to get it in until Oct 10th.
Dawn: Some people do not understand why President Zardari and Amb Haqqani (as Mr Ijaz claims) had to send a memo on such a sensitive subject? Why did not they send an oral message? What do you think caused them to send a written message?
Mansoor Ijaz: Good question – it was their intent to do all of this verbally. But my US interlocutor who sent the memorandum to Admiral Mullen insisted on having the ambassador’s offers put in writing because the US government had been repeatedly deceived by Pakistan’s verbal offers of action in the recent past. He also insisted that I obtain the ambassador’s assurance that President Zardari had approved the offers contained in the memorandum. I did exactly those two things.
Dawn: Was it just one Pakistani official or someone else also involved?
Mansoor Ijaz: Only Amb Haqqani. He told me that others were with him in Pakistan on this, but never really mentioned names other than that of “the boss”.