Islamabad, December 30. In a major setback to Pakistan’s embattled leadership, the Supreme Court today ordered a time-bound investigation into the memo scandal, overriding the government’s contention that the issue should be probed by a parliamentary panel.
A nine-judge bench led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry gave its ruling after hearing arguments by the government’s law officers and several petitioners, including opposition PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, who had asked the apex court to probe the ‘memogate’ scandal.
“The court has established a commission for the investigation into the memo case. The Chief Justice of the Baluchistan High Court will lead this commission,” Attorney General Maulvi Anwar-ul-Haq told reporters outside the court.
The three-member commission was asked to complete its probe within four weeks. “The commission shall be exercising all the powers of judicial officers for the purpose of carrying out (the probe) and it shall be free to avail services of advocates, experts of forensic science and cyber crimes,” the apex court said in its order.
The apex court directed all federal secretaries, including the Interior Secretary, Cabinet Secretary and Foreign Secretary, the Chief Secretaries of all provinces, the head of the Federal Investigation Agency, provincial police chiefs and Pakistan’s envoys to the US and Britain to provide assistance to the commission.
The court’s decision is expected to increase pressure on the weak civilian government and beleaguered President Asif Ali Zardari, who has been linked to the memo that was delivered to former US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen by Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz.
Pakistan’s political system was caught in whirlpool on October 10 after Ijaz wrote in the Financial Times that a senior Pakistani diplomat had asked that a memo be delivered to the Pentagon.
Ijaz claimed that Zardari feared the military might overthrow his government and accused former envoy to US Husain Haqqani of crafting the memo with the President’s support. Both Zardari and Haqqani had rejected the allegations.
The scandal had exposed the deep fissures between the Pakistani civilian government and the powerful army. Haqqani was forced to resign over the issue.
The apex court directed the commission to “ascertain the origin, authenticity and purpose of creating/drafting of memo for delivering it to Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, through Gen (retired) James Logan Jones, former US National Security Advisor”.
The court further directed the Attorney General to contact the Canadian firm Research in Motion to confirm the “veracity and authenticity” of communications on BlackBerry phones between Ijaz and Haqqani.
“This confirmation may be obtained at the earliest and in order to save and protect the forensic evidence and to scrutinise the same, it should be produced before the commission,” the order said.
Noting that Ijaz and Haqqani had exchanged 85 BBMs, voice calls and emails, the apex court said these communications “form the most important piece of evidence regarding purported contacts between the two for the purposes of drafting the alleged memo”.
The apex court had barred Haqqani from travelling out of Pakistan when it began hearing the petitions on December 1 and the bench said this order would remain in place. (PTI)