Who is Mansoor Ijaz?
Mansoor Ijaz is the central character in Memogate scandal that has engulfs Pakistan since last October. The controversy started off when Mansoor Ijaz alleged in his Financial Times article that he has broker an offer on behalf of weak Pakistani civilian government to the Pentagon to avert expected military coup in return of their full support to Washington after Osama bin Laden killing in Pakistan. This explosive allegation not only set off a political storm in Pakistan but has also caused Ambassador Husain Haqqani to resign. In his article he had mention that he was approach by a senior Pakistani diplomat to deliver a secret unsigned memo to Admiral Mike Mullen. Memo which was later duped by the media as “Memogate” was supposedly written on behalf of President Zardari. Following the resignation of Haqqani, Supreme Court of Pakistan has also formed a judicial commission to investigate the memo. Ijaz has already issued visa for Pakistan last week and he is expected to appear before the commission in coming days.
Now question arises that who is Mansoor Ijaz who is insinuating an allegation that can bring down Zardari’s government. He is an American businessman born in US belonging to a Pakistani immigrant’s family. His parents were college teachers. Father of Mansoor Ijaz, Dr. Mujaddid Ahmad Ijaz, was a theoretical physicist who was also part of Pakistan nuclear development program in seventies and was the friend of Pakistan’s first and only Nobel Laureate Dr. Absus Salam. He went to University of Virginia for an undergraduate degree in nuclear physics and also studied in Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for masters in mechanical engineering. Well connected Ijaz have connections with Washington heavy weights like retired Air Force Lt. General James Alan Abrahamson and former CIA Director R. James Woolsey. Both of these gentlemen were associated with Mansoor Ijaz business ventures. He also participated in various Clinton’s fund raising events and tried to get in close circle of the former president.
The Memogate allegation is not the first stir that Mansoor Ijaz has caused. Previously, during nineties he asserted that he tried to persuade Clinton administration to improve relations with Sudan where Osama bin Laden was residing at that time. He even claim that he had drafted a proposal for Sudanese government to provide Washington al Qaeda related intelligence and assistance in capturing and delivering bin Laden to US. Clinton administration apparently never took any interest in Mansoor Ijaz proposal. Later, when 9/11 commission interviewed Ijaz, he failed to provide any credible evidence that Sudanese had ever offered to deliver bin Laden. Claims like this make Mansoor Ijaz some kind of a covert agent who is working under cover. Mansoor Ijaz has also appeared several times on television news channels, sometimes as a foreign affairs expert and sometimes as terrorism analyst. During these interviews he had made several outlandish claims which later turn out to be nothing but a wild goose chase. On one occasion he alleged that American troops are exposed to potential threat of chemical warheads that were being smuggled into Iraq and it is mastermind by hardliner Iranian clerics. Sensationalism is the corner stone of Mansoor Ijaz claims. In this allegation he manages to add all the ingredients for good primetime story: WMD, crazy Iranian mullahs, and US soldiers exposed to potential bio-weapon threat. Later on he defended himself that at that time he thought it was true but it turns out to be from a faulty source. But this was not the first time that he had fumbled and regretted on his sensational assertions. Back in 2003, he has also claimed that his credible eyewitness sources have confirmed that Osama bin Laden along with his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri was seen in Iran. And again that time he had made the same excuse in his defense. And list can goes on where he had made huge claims that later turns out mere hoaxs.
Having shaky reputation has made Ijaz role in Memogate controversy little less credible and Haqqani supporters were quick to point out the same. But the critics said that having such a shady reputation was indeed a good swathe for Zardari government. As if the cover of any such covert offer is ever blown, it would be easy to walk away from him. Political pundits now also debating that whether it is appropriate to give any weight to a person whose whole resume is buildup on history of false allegations to a respected man like Husain Haqqani. And besides, up till now Ijaz has not provided any sold evidence to back his allegations. But abrupt departure of President Zardari to Dubai in early December for medical checkup in the mid of the crisis also raise serious doubts in government version of the story; who have maintained for the beginning that no such memo exist. At that time it was also said that Zardari is seriously ill and it is not clear that how much time willhe take to recover. But when he came back the rumor mill suggested that some sort of understanding has been reached between the government and army.
It is still uncertainty, whether that Mansoor Ijaz will ever visit Pakistan or appear before the Memogate commission as he had express fear and apprehension in coming to Pakistan. Coming days will reveal whether Mansoor Ijaz is bluffing or he has some concrete evidence this time.