Memogate or the Grand Delusions of Mansoor Ijaz

Delusions of grandeur – a delusion (common in paranoia) that you are much greater and more powerful and influential than you really are. (Source)


Much has been said and written about this hackneyed non-issue in the Pakistani and international media but mostly in speculative and sensationalist way. My purpose here is to basically lay bare the arguments offered by Mr. Mansoor Ijaz about the fruitfulness of his actions in an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.

Usually I do not waste my time in responding to or writing about the shenanigans of neoconservative minions of high capital: I belive that if they just focus on accumulating wealth and living a prosperous life and at times spew the virtues of prosperity, then all power to them. But things become problematic when these minions of cut-throat capitalism also, by virtue of being prosperous,  tend to posit themselves as all-knwowing pundits of international politics. Things get even more quixotic when these moneymaking machines decide that they have the power and vision to make or break nations. Mr. Mansoor Ijaz, it seems, suffers from this type of grand delusion about his own importance to history and the fate of Pakistan and since he is known to have cast his lot with the interventionist and imperial policies of Bush administration, he has been the darling insider, the uncle Tom, of the conservative media in the US.

It was interesting to read his interview with Fareed Zakaria and since I am a reader of texts by profession, I find it apt to provide a sort of close reading of this interview. You can read the entire transcript of the interview here: Zakaria interviews Mansoor Ijaz on Memogate. [1. Note this interview was conducted in December 2011 after Mr. Mansoor Ijaz had published an op-ed piece in the Financial Times entitled “To Take on Pakistan’s Jihadist Spies.” Since Financial Times has controlled content, I cannot provide a link to the actual article.]

So, in the interview Zakaria pushes Mr. Ijaz on the very argument of his op-ed in the Financial Times:

Zakaria: The basic point of your article was a rather striking – in fact, even stunning call for the U.S. to label an element of the Pakistani military, the ‘S Branch’  of the intelligence wing, a terrorist organization. What brought you to feel so strongly that?

This is a very important question and it allows Mr. Mansoor Ijaz to elaborate his own “illustrious’ history as a power broker and as the central figure in the saga of his own delusions of grandeur and, of course, his answer is a testimony to this:

Ijaz: You know, I’ve been involved in different operations in Pakistan now for a very long time. I helped Benazir come back together with the Clinton administration as a part of the larger Pakistani-American community. I, as you know, was deeply involved in trying to broker a ceasefire in Kashmir. And during these various interventions that I tried to effect in Pakistan, what we found out in almost every single case was that there was a political motivation and a political interference by the ISI. [emphasis added]

This answer is deeply interesting: it makes Mr. Mansoor Ijaz, in his own words, central to so many Pakistan-related issues. So, we learn in this response that somehow Benazir needed an intermediary such as Mr. Mansoor Ijaz to get in touch with Clinton Administration and the reply also places Mr. Mansoor Ijaz at the center of the most enduring conflict in the region. Beyond the specifics Mr. Mansoor Ijaz also goes on to suggest that he had also attempted to “effect” other changes in the region. So, not only is Mr. Ijaz at the center of regional and international politics now, we learn, but he has also been this highly important intermediary in grand issues of the region and the world in the past. We learn all of this in Mr. Ijaz’s own words. These are, I must submit, classic symptoms of a delusional personality. After all, other than being rich and prosperous and being an insider in neoconservative politics, what other credentials does Mr. Mansoor Ijaz offer as an “intermediary” and as an “effecter” of change in the region. The fact that not many Pakistanis were even aware of his illustrious existence before the murky memo affair caught the national attention further weakens his personal claims of this grand history of working for the region. In my humble opinion, if Benazir Bhutto needed someone such as him to get in touch with Washington, then all that I have ever thought of her stature as a national leader becomes questionable. I am pretty sure that, given her prominence in the national and world politics, if Benazir ever wanted to contact Washington, she probably did not need a middleman like Mr. Mansoor Ijaz, especially an untrustworthy middleman, a fact proven by the momogate scandal.

After this initial exchange, Zakaria, to his credit, goes to the most important question of his interview, a question that we all should be asking of our illustrious Mr. Manssor Ijaz:

Zakaria: So what I’m wondering is, why would you make public the fact that the Pakistani civilian government was concerned about the ISI and was trying to curtail it? It seems to undercut the very purpose of your own article to reveal that the civilian government was trying to clip the wings of the Pakistani military.

Yes, an apt question indeed. If the purpose of the op-ed was to point out that there is a so-called “S” branch of ISI that functions as a body not accountable to any power in the nation, then why make the civilian government’s concerns about it so openly public. To this Mr. Ijaz offers an interesting and surprisingly contorted non-answer:

Ijaz: That’s a fair question. And all I will tell you is that you’ve written enough op-ed pieces to know that the way the op-ed process, the writing process works is that there has to be some authenticity in the way that a writer presents his particular argument.

Now I’m not a writer of a book like Ahmed Rashid, I’m not a decorated veteran of some war, I’m not a former secretary of state, I’m not you. You’ve got a great credibility to do these things just on your name alone.

In my case because I’m a businessman who theoretically has nothing to do with these kinds of issues, what I wrote and how I wrote needed to have a certain authenticity to it.

So, let me grasp this. Mr. Ijaz claims to be a novice at op-ed writing and also acknowledges that he does not have the proven credentials to write something such as this as he is, in his words, ” a businessman” and thus, in order to be credible and to make his argument “authentic” he had to, as I understand it, offer an aura of authenticity. This, in other words, means that even though he neither had the intimate knowledge nor the necessary expertise to write this op-ed, he had to offer his views as authentic and believable. This, in other words, means that he had to lie in a convincing manner. As regards to his sensational account actually strengthening the ISI, the very institution he had set out to criticize, and weakening the civilian government, he supplies us with this profound answer:

Ijaz: I don’t think that’s what’s happened. If you ask me, we have strengthened Pakistan. Maybe we haven’t strengthened the civilian side of Pakistan’s government, but there may have been a rot there that needs to be cleaned up. And if that rot is cleaned out, you might find a very strong Pakistan emanating out of this in which the judiciary does what it’s supposed to. The military does what it’s supposed to.

This, of course, is delusional at a monumental scale. If I was a conspiracy theorist like Mr. Mansoor Ijaz, I would suggest that the ISI permitted Mr. Mansoor Ijaz to write this op-ed (or wrote it for him) where he, on the surface, criticizes the ISI, but in spirit actually creates a space for the ISI to hold this government hostage. But Mr. Ijaz’s inability to see the destabilizing impact of his assertions for the future of democracy in Pakistan are not only seriously beguiling but also point to the fact that even he himself does not know what he was saying in an article that he, supposedly, wrote himself.

So, in my humble opinion Mr. Mansoor Ijaz should give up his role as a political pundit or as a great mediator and go on running his business and making money. At least if he sticks to his capitalistic ideals of perpetual growth and endless accumulation of profits, he will only  harm those whose labors he must exploit to be rich, whereas his role as a pseudo pundit and as a delusional mediator has the possibility of damaging a whole nation.

So, as I read this bizarre interview I am grateful to Zakaria for asking such important questions of this demagogue and have also reached a firm conclusion about Mr. Mansoor Ijaz: I will not let him help me even if I was drowning and he was the last human on earth left to pull me out. No, I would rather drown!



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By M R

Originally from Pakistan, Dr. Masood Ashraf Raja is an Associate Professor of Postcolonial Literature and Theory and the editor of Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies.
Raja tweets @masoodraja

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