'Memogate' key witness 'won't visit Pakistan'

Mansoor Ijaz, businessman at the heart of the scandal, fears he will be detained indefinitely if he returns.

    The article written by Mansour Ijaz in the Financial Times newspaper is at the centre of the "Memogate" controversy

    A key witness asked to appear by Pakistani judges investigating a major scandal implicating the government wants to record his statement abroad rather than visit Pakistan, his lawyer said.

    Mansoor Ijaz, a US businessman, has implicated President Asif Ali Zardari in a secret memo seeking US help to curb the power of the military, alleging that the country's political leaders feared an army coup after Osama bin Laden was killed in May.

    But Ijaz's lawyer on Monday told reporters that his client was reluctant to visit the country, fearing that he would be detained indefinitely.

    "It seems like a well-orchestrated trap to hold Mr Ijaz indefinitely in Pakistan after his deposition before the commission," Akram Sheikh, the lawyer, said.

    "Therefore Mr Ijaz has decided to make a request to the commission to record his testimony in London or Zurich," Sheikh told reporters.

    "Mr Ijaz refuses to walk knowingly into the trap being laid by the government and waits to speak the truth of this case," he said.

    In an op-ed piece written in the UK's Financial Times newspaper on October 10, Ijaz alleged that a senior Pakistani diplomat telephoned him asking for help because Zardari needed to communicate an urgent message to the Americans.

    The scandal, known as "memogate", has already cost the job of Zardari's close aide, former Pakistani ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani and the court's decision to investigate has mounted pressure on the under-fire president.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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