Did Nawaz fall for the trap?

Nawaz Sharif at Supreme Court

Since the beginning of the so-called ‘memogate’ controversy, one question that has never been adequately answered is why, if Mansoor Ijaz is telling the truth, did he turn on his alleged co-conspirators and reveal the existence of the memo. The answer Ijaz came up with was that he revealed all to add ‘authenticity’ to his op-ed, an excuse that even critics of the government consider silly. A few days ago I suggested that we might want to think about what Ijaz’s real target might be, and whether his allegations against the civilians are actually just bait in the trap for his real target – Pakistan’s security agencies. Today, more evidence comes to light that suggests this might be a possibility worth serious consideration.

Writing in The News, Tahir Khalil reveals that soon after Ijaz’s op-ed was published, the government sought to sue Ijaz and the Financial Times and even approached a US law firm about filing lawsuits in the both US and UK. According to the report, the lawyers discouraged the government from pursuing legal cases in the US and UK because “suing him might open a debate about Pakistan’s security agencies in the US or UK courts”.

An important question for everyone to weigh is whether targeting the ambassador and even the president was part of some design by Mansoor Ijaz to create circumstances whereby Pakistan’s security services come under debate in the US and UK courts. In his last article Mansoor Ijaz says he mentioned the memo only “inadvertently” but his other actions indicate his desire to use his memo as an excuse to create other circumstances that might be detrimental to Pakistan’s national security.

On Twitter recently, someone wrote that they don’t care what else Ijaz said because they are only concerned with what he says against the government. This attitude might work for uninformed Twitter arguments, but in a court of law you can’t protest that Mansoor Ijaz is credibly telling the truth in his sentence about the memo…and ignore the dozens of sentences against the military and security agencies. Please allow me to reiterate what I wrote recently:

This is important because remember what is said and exhibited in the court is public record. For most issues of such national sensitivity, an in-camera inquiry would be ordered to protect the national interest. But in this case, Ijaz has carefully created a political, not a national security crisis.

Recent media statements by Mansoor Ijaz have explained that he has no faith in the civilian government to move against the military and security agencies that he continues to term as terror masters. Could it be that Mansoor Ijaz tried to peddle his memo to Haqqani only to be rebuffed? That Haqqani, despite being critical of past military leaders, saw the working relationship between Gen Kayani, PM Gilani and President Zardari as a positive for the nation and did not want to upset the careful balance and growing trust between the military and civil branches of government? In addition to terming the military as terror masters, Ijaz has termed the civilians as “rot”. Only Ijaz himself, it seems, is worthy to determine Pakistan’s interests.

Rejected by Haqqani, Ijaz then took his memo to his friends in Washington who also “did not find it at all credible and took no note of it then or later”. Finding himself without any buyers in either Islamabad or Washington, he published his infamous op-ed and set the plan in motion himself. It should be noted that Gen Pasha did meet with both Ijaz and Haqqani and collected evidence from both, but the Supreme Court was petitioned by Nawaz Sharif who has himself been critical of Gen Kayani and Gen Pasha famously saying to Gen Pasha at the APC that “where there is smoke there is fire” regarding American allegations against ISI.

Choosing to believe only what is convenient and ignoring what is inconvenient might work in drawing room debates, but not in independent courts of law. There are serious questions that must be asked not only about issues of Mansoor Ijaz’s credibility, but his intended target also. It is known that Nawaz Sharif is feeling the heat of PTI’s advances in his backyard, the impressive turnout at Imran Khan’s 30th October rally surely got the PML-N chief’s attention, and he may see Mansoor Ijaz’s claims as an opportunity to prove his own patriotic credentials. But we all should be very careful not to get lured into a trap designed to sacrifice our national security in exchange for political points.