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Who is Mansoor Ijaz? The US businessman behind Pakistan's 'Memo-gate'

A whistle blowing hero to some, a villain doing the Pakistan military's dirty work to others, Ijaz is above all a mysterious anomaly. 

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"I have said from the outset that I would travel to Pakistan without hesitation as long as the security arrangements were impartial and adequate. I never asked for an army battalion, nor did I seek any special attention in securing my visit. This was all government hype. I simply wanted to ensure there would be no interference, political or otherwise, with the electronic data and other physical evidence in my hands, and that I would be allowed the right of safe passage to return to my family. Rehman Malik complicated that equation greatly during the last week; I will see how he and others charged with my security behave in the coming week and then we will make a final go-no-go decision," Ijaz says.

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While it is now uncertain whether Ijaz will appear before the court or not, some of Pakistan’s political opposition leaders are now coming out to back him.

On Monday, cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, whose popularity has soared in recent months, said if the government succeeds in preventing Ijaz from testifying, it would prove all his allegations to be true.

Rasul Baksh Rais, head of Political Science at Lahore University of Management Sciences, says, “I think Mansoor Ijaz is bold. He has courage, he has a sense of responsibility and a commitment to greater values like peace, stability, and democratic order.”

Adds Mr. Rais: “There are public intellectuals who speak their mind, but those who dominate the system are not committed to constitutional democracy.... Countries like Pakistan not only need internal awakening but sometimes rude awakening [from outside].”

Others are not as impressed.

In an editorial, Pakistan’s liberal Express Tribune Monday described Ijaz as “a publicity hound with a healthy sense of self-regard,” adding: “As a US citizen, Mr. Ijaz has every right to absent himself from Pakistani legal proceedings. But to continue making statements that will never face judicial scrutiny but place the government at risk is highly irresponsible at best.”

Ijaz himself is adamant that the government of Pakistan is placing roadblocks to prevent his testimony in order to save themselves from the embarrassment his “six new revelations,” which he won’t disclose, could bring.

“The current civilian leadership is not interested in a true liberal value system that is representative of the people's needs, wishes, aspirations, and hopes. They are only interested in the acquisition of power and the systematic looting of the national treasury,” he says, adding that the affair, “has allowed an activist judiciary to hold a wayward civilian government to account.... And that is good for the ordinary person just trying to survive day-to-day.”

But Ijaz’s criticism is not limited to the civilian leadership, with whom he has developed a high-level of personal animosity. Asked whether Pakistan’s traditionally pro-military judiciary should be doing more to probe his allegations that ISI chief Gen. Shuja Pasha met with Arab leaders to discuss the possibility of a coup, Ijaz responds: “You're damn right they ought to ask that question. If the Supreme Court is not willing to, you can be sure [I will].”

For Mr. Nawaz, the analyst, the bizarre and colorful affair has now become a distraction that the country can do without. “There are very serious issues that Pakistan faces – economic issues, the rolling over in debt, repayment of IMF loans, a need to adjust the economy. Those are the ones that the government needs to be spending time on rather than getting embroiled on this particular case.”

 

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