BHARAT RAKSHAK MONITOR - Volume 3(2) September - October 2000

Features.jpg (4975 bytes)

 

Musawer Mansoor Ijaz – America's Secret Emissary

JAIDEEP E. MENON

With the path breaking ceasefire offer by the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, the political environment surrounding the Kashmir issue has changed. The American angle in this development is often mentioned, without much clarification as to what exactly that entailed. It appears that Washington has acted, at the least, as a source of ideas, as a facilitator and perhaps even as an applier of pressure on the parties involved. One of the people apparently batting for the American side is Musawer Mansoor Ijaz, an American-born businessman and policy advisor of Pakistani origin. He visited Kashmir discreetly in recent months and is one of the people whose ideas on the Kashmir issue seems to filter through to President Bill Clinton. Ijaz can be expected to continue to play an intriguing, if somewhat mysterious, role within the US-India-Pakistan triangle. One can also expect that he may move on to greater prominence through this issue. So who is Mansoor Ijaz?

In attempts to understand a person, it is a good idea – as Socrates once said – to begin at the beginning. In the case of Mansoor Ijaz, that would have to be with his parents Mujaddid and Lubna. Both were highly intelligent and, apparently, intense individuals with an inclination towards the sciences, in particular physics. Mujaddid was regarded a very demanding personality, while his wife Lubna – who it is said had a Mughal heritage – was a driven personality who did not flinch from breaching societal and traditional barriers. Their story, and more importantly that of their son, for all intents and purposes begins in 1960 when Mujaddid and Lubna emigrated to the USA.

It is said that Mujaddid played a role in Pakistan's early nuclear programme. What role he could have played is unclear, because at the time of his emigration to the US, there was no indication that Pakistan had a nuclear programme of any sophistication. More likely, however, is that Mujaddid may have been involved at a conceptual/advisory level and in preliminary developments in Pakistan's clandestine nuclear programme initially. In view of his expertise, he probably also kept close links from the US with his old schoolmates and teachers who subsequently went on to occupy very high positions in the Pakistani nuclear establishment. As such, he may have been an important source of offshore nuclear technical expertise for Pakistan. Ironically, Mansoor, may be playing a similar role of information and expertise provider (on Pakistan's nuclear programme) for the country of his birth, the USA. But we get ahead of ourselves.

After Mujaddid arrived in the US, he settled initially in Florida. Mansoor was born in Tallahassee (FL) in August 1961. But in the following years the family soon moved on to the Blue Ridge Mountains area of Virginia, where Mujaddid was to teach nuclear physics at Virginia Tech, a position he held for 26 years. Meanwhile, Lubna started a doctorate at Virginia Tech and became the first woman PhD in solar physics at the institution. Simultaneously, the pater familias branched into another line of work: farming & real estate. Mujaddid accumulated a small fortune by buying, developing and selling land. As he grew wealthier, he sponsored more than 100 Muslim students to study in the US and helped 50 relatives relocate to America.

The Ijaz family lived on their farm, and in some ways Mansoor and his brother Farouk had what might be considered an idyllic childhood – going to school, playing ball, learning the things American children learn, and then returning to the farm where he is said to have "milked Holsteins and pitched hay". Mujaddid and Lubna, however, were not "social rebels". He was a reserved, stoic and reverent man with a deep love for the land he left behind. He and Lubna ensured that their children were brought up with a good understanding of Pakistani and Islamic traditions. Mansoor and Farouk started at childhood to offer daily prayers facing Mecca. Mansoor still does his daily religious duties.

This picture would not be wholly American without at least one example of the racism Mansoor and his brother experienced as children. At their elementary school in Blacksburg (VA), they were the only dark-skinned children and were the subject of taunts because of their colour. In high school in nearby Christiansburg, Mansoor who was small in stature (a "deficiency" compounding the colour problem) was beaten by bullies. This may partly explain why Mansoor took to sports. He had a particular interest in tennis and weightlifting. But his parents, typically sub-continental, were not amused. They saw it as a distraction from academic activities. Mansoor has been quoted as saying: "I would beg to play tennis. My father would ask about my grades". Nevertheless, Mansoor had by then begun to demonstrate his personal smarts as well as qualities of character. He enrolled in the University of Virginia, tutoring the basketball team to help pay his tuition, and while at the university he also earned All-American weightlifting status. At the university he preferred to study law, but was nudged in the direction of architecture by an adviser. In his junior year, his father suggested that he shift to physics. Thus he graduated with a bachelor's degree in nuclear physics from the University of Virginia in 1983.

Once again, the sub-continental cultural heritage kicked in and the time for an arranged marriage was nigh. So, in 1983, his family fixed a spouse for him in the Islamic tradition and Mansoor wed Yasmine (who duly proceeded to issue two offspring). In the meantime, Mansoor pursued further studies at the Massachussets Institute of Technology, where he received a degree in mechanical engineering in 1985. He had trained as a neuro-mechanical engineer under a fellowship granted by the joint MIT-Harvard Medical School Medical Engineering Program. Now the following segment of Mansoor's life is quite vague. It appears he continued postgraduate work at MIT, because according to one of the sources "three and one half years into his graduate studies" at MIT, Mansoor was called home to Virginia for family reasons. His parents, who had lived in the early 1980s in Saudi Arabia (for reasons unknown), had returned to Virginia. But family finances were squeezed, apparently because Mujaddid did not have a clue about basic economics (i.e. interest rates & inflation), which seems rather odd for someone who can understand nuclear physics. In any event, the situation was a turning point for Mansoor, for Mujaddid ordered him to New York to learn the ropes on Wall Street.

A new phase of Mansoor's life commenced. His took a job at Van Eck Associates, a mutual fund company. His first project with them was to analyse nuclear fallout from the Chernobyl accident in the Soviet Union. His models of how world geo-political events affected market conditions proved profitable for Van Eck, and he was soon entrusted to run a large mutual fund that anticipated changes in foreign policy. To build his models, Mansoor drew extensively on his experience at MIT. Having learned the ropes, Mansoor wasted no time in starting his own company: Crescent Investment Management, located on Lexington Avenue, in 1991. The company's logo, designed by his father Mujaddid, is the Islamic crescent moon recognised worldwide. (It is also the dominant motif on the flag of Pakistan). Mansoor began traveling extensively, visiting Pakistan and several Middle East countries seeking business deals. He built up an impressive network of contacts. At Crescent, he once again put his MIT analytical modelling experience to good use and developed the company's proprietary currency and interest rate risk management systems known as CARAT, TRACK, RMU and CALOP. Crescent rapidly became a successful company, with a $2.7 billion investment portfolio by the mid-1990s, according to Mansoor.

For Mansoor, 1992 was a watershed year. It was marked by personal tragedy and change, when his father died of brain and lung cancer. In a gesture mixed with symbolism and drama, Mujaddid had left a lasting message for his son – giving his dying instructions on videotape. In the tape, Mujaddid indicated that – since Mansoor had shown his capability to adapt to changes – he should dedicate himself to helping the Islamic world. Mansoor subsequently said that his father had passed the baton (given Mujaddid's expertise, outsiders may wonder what exactly the baton was), noting: "There was always a cultural gap between us…His death gave me a conscience". Although the father-son relationship had not been one of overtly displayed affection, not unlike most sub-continental father-son relationships, Ijaz had been a dutiful son and had always wished to please his father. It is no leap of faith therefore, to assume that his father's final dramatic gesture had a lasting impact on Mansoor. It is equally safe to assume that Mansoor was already on the radar of the American intelligence agencies because of his obvious brilliance, his parentage, his business skills and his connections. No doubt, they also noticed his growing contributions to the Democratic Party. Indeed, he was singled out in 1994 by the Democratic National Committee which had by then recognised that he was more than just a source of funds.

In May 1994, one Ari Swiller (one strand in Mansoor's Jewish links), who has been described as being "in charge of $100,000 donations" for the Democrats, sent a one-page memo fax to Maria Haley, a director of the US Eximbank who has found jobs for many Asian-Americans in the Clinton Administration. According to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette (ADG) of 28 April 1997, the memo claims that Mansoor is "very interested in using his background in nuclear physics", and accompanies a biographical sketch listing his background and contacts. Subsequently, Haley and Swiller have clammed up. Mansoor has been quoted as saying he does not know anything about the fax, adding (with good reason): "Why would I want a job with the government? I make a hell of lot more money where I am".

The biographical sketch, nonetheless, emphasises Mansoor's knowledge about the nuclear establishment in Pakistan. According to ADG, the memo says that Mujaddid's "closest classmates and teachers in Pakistan are now in charge'' of Pakistani nuclear facilities, including the directors of the Centre for Nuclear Studies and of PINSTECH, Pakistan's leading nuclear-research facility. Further, ADG claimed that a note at the bottom of the sketch says this, "These names have been provided at the request of the DNC in order to more fully evaluate the potential of a mutual relationship.'' The note asked for strict confidentiality. Whatever the case may be, by 1995, Mansoor was hobnobbing with the Washington elite, including Clinton and his wife. By then he was also in a position to directly send letters to Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto through a high-ranking intermediary. In other words, he was in the thick of intrigues in 1995 involving the US (at re-election fund-raising time) and an "attempted coup" in Pakistan.

Imagine the scene, a glamorous fund-raising dinner ($1000/plate) for the Democrats on 11 July 1995, at the home (haveli) of Pakistani cosmetics millionaire Rashid Chaudhary. Guests of honour were Vice President Albert Gore and his wife Tipper. In a gesture to symbolise long-term friendship, Gore planted a tree in his host's back yard that evening. Chaudary's wife gave Tipper a shalwar kameez, which she changed into before dinner in order to please the hosts; the objective was to raise $150,000 that night from the 150 guests.

Yet the event was not about food (which was plain, catered chicken and vegetables) but about politics – both the American and sub-continental versions. And this is where Mansoor comes into the picture. He was seated at the head table, along with Chaudhary and Gore as well as Izzat Majeed, a former Saudi oil adviser and chief Executive of Alyph Ltd., a London financial consulting firm; Nancy Soderberg, then Deputy Assistant to the President for national security affairs; Alexis Herman, a former Democratic National Committee chief of staff who moved on to become head of the White House Office of Public Liaison and Clinton's nominee for secretary of labor; naturalized American Yusuf Haroon, a former Pakistani politician whose family owns the Pakistani newspaper group Dawn; and two unidentified businessmen. Just as important as who was present at the dinner was who was not: namely, Maleela Lodhi, Pakistan's then Ambassador to the United States. She had not been invited. Instead, the Bhutto government was represented by Wajid Shamzil Hassan, Pakistan's Ambassador to London.

Why so? Well, intrigue was in the air. Plans of a "coup" in the making against the Bhutto government were already afloat and the White House was already aware of it. US media reports have it that Yusuf Haroon was the point man on this on the American side. His goal was to get maximum publicity coverage with the high and mighty in the US so that the credibility of the coup would be enhanced. A speech by Gore at a dinner hosted by Chaudhary at which Haroon was at the head table was just such an opportunity. (Photos were taken by Larry Glenn, a pro hired by the Democratic National Committee). But this plan collapsed, in manner similar to how the coup fizzled out some months later. Pivotal in the derailment of the plan was Mansoor, the American-born Pakistani with the "cultural gap" with his late father. He had to choose between divergent interests and outcomes, and he did. Here's how.

Mansoor, through his sources in Pakistan, had learned that a coup was being prepared against Bhutto. He then injected himself into the situation by doing two things: (1) informing the US government which had a pro-Bhutto stance at the time; and (2) informing Bhutto herself in a four-page letter dated June 29 and delivered to Zafar Hilaly, her National Security Adviser. The thrust of the information provided by Mansoor was as follows: Yusuf Haroon and Lt. Gen. Ali Quli Khan, then Pakistan's Chief of Military Intelligence, were plotting to oust Bhutto. According to the ADG, Mansoor said that he learned of the plot from sources inside Pakistan who were aware of his political connections in the US.

In the letter to Bhutto, Mansoor recommended that she send a trusted friend to represent her at Chaudhary's dinner, namely Shamzil Hassan, the ambassador to London. Oddly enough, it appears that she may not have trusted Maleeha Lodhi, ambassador in Washington; perhaps Bhutto, a fairly shrewd judge of character, recognised that Maleeha – like her brother Amir Lodhi – would sell herself to the highest bidder (and she has done so since). One would have thought that Mansoor's interjection to save Bhutto would have earned him her eternal appreciation, but this was not to be. She dealt with the 'coup attempt' in her own way, apparently compromising Lt. Gen. Quli Khan and getting him to nail his own underlings, but that's another story.

Gore's office and the National Security Council had been forewarned by Mansoor about the coup and were in no mood to be used. Indeed, it has been reported that on the day of the dinner, Mansoor called the Vice President's office to warn his staff. At the same time, foregoing $150,000 was not an option. So, Mansoor provided an escape route by suggesting a way to subvert the plotters' plan: Gore should somehow address the coup issue when he spoke. Thus Gore gave a long speech and at the end said a coup in Pakistan against Bhutto would not be tolerated by Washington. As numerous journalists were present, the Haroon-Quli Khan plan was quashed in public – at least from the US perspective.

The question here is, what made Mansoor decide that the best course of action was to inform the US Government. He obviously knew that, having family members still in Pakistan, they would be vulnerable. He also knew that, if it came out (as it did) that he was the leaker of information, powerful people in Pakistan would gun for him (perhaps literally). On the other hand, he knew that if he did not inform the US (and if the US found out that he had known), Pak-Americans in general would be cast in a negative light. He could not be sure, in another uncertainty, that the US would believe him.

Yet he took the course of informing the US, and it seems he was right; in subsequent years he has been noted wearing US presidential cufflinks and the White House has said it welcomes his views. In April 1997, the White House press spokesman (also the National Security Council press officer) David Johnson has been quoted as saying: "We found him (Mansoor) to have an interesting cultural perspective, particularly with respect to Pakistan… We've had no discussion with him about nuclear capabilities, nor negotiations, nor about code names''. The issue of "code names" came up because it was reported that Mansoor was known among circles interested in his activities as "Leo" (the star sign of his birth month August), a bit obvious perhaps but reality does not always conform either to Fleming's fantasy or to notions of bureaucratic alphanumeric efficiency. In any case, it seems Mansoor did not decide to inform the US about the coup purely on grounds of personal benefit – although that too may have been involved (as will be shown later).

The year 1995 was eventful for Mansoor in other ways. He was honored as the Endowment for Democracy's 1995 "Humanitarian of the Year" in recognition of his efforts to aid poor and disaffected people in Bosnia, South Africa, Hungary and Pakistan. The Endowment for Democracy is seen as a Jewish-controlled organisation. From late 1995, however, Mansoor became a severe critic of the Bhutto government, attacking it for corruption, etc. He said subsequently to ADG that, "We were saving democracy from the hands of military dictators, not Mrs. Bhutto as a person…When I wrote the anti-corruption pieces, I was speaking out on behalf of the poor and disaffected people of Pakistan who had no other voice to protect them from the ravages of the Bhutto regime's unforgivable conduct. There is no contradiction". This earned him her lasting enmity.

Was there something more than plain old altruism to Mansoor's criticism of Bhutto? We'll never know for certain, but consider this: for what other reason was the year 1995 eventful for Pakistan? The Brown Amendment was passed that year. Indeed, from the beginning of the year the Clinton administration was lobbying for the bill with help from Chaudhary. In June 1995, as Mansoor became aware of the coup plans, the bill was a hot topic, and at the time of the Chaudhary haveli dinner in July it was being debated in the Senate. The Brown Amendment was included in a foreign appropriations bill passed by the Senate in September 1995. In the same month, Mansoor hosted a low-profile fund-raiser for Gore at his Manhattan penthouse. Twenty contributors with "blue-chip credentials'' contributed $150,000 to the Clinton-Gore Re-Election Committee, according to a Pakistani journalist present. (White Houe records show 25 guests present contributed $5,000 each). Gore promised during the dinner that the Clinton administration would devote more energy to the "South Asian situation'' in its second term. By November 1995, the Brown Amendment was passed.

After the Brown Amendment was passed, however, Mansoor's ties with Bhutto began to deteriorate fast. He began writing high profile critiques of her government for corruption. This continued through the following year. That there may be reasons beyond altruism for his views was suggested in October 1996 when Pakistani Foreign Secretary Najmuddin Shaikh said a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Mansoor arguing against foreign investment in Pakistan was "infantile, vindictive and without any credibility" as well as being the result of "pique". Shaikh said Mansoor was attacking Bhutto because he could not "derive sufficient benefit" from the government.

Separately 'Dawn' quoted a Pakistan Embassy spokesman in Washington as saying that Mansoor was blasting Islamabad because the embassy denied him $15 million he had demanded to secure votes in the US House of Representatives for the passage of the Brown Amendment. The spokesman said that in 1995, after the Brown Amendment had made it through the US senate and then had to be voted on by the House, Mansoor went to the embassy along with his lawyers with a proposal that smacked of a 'sting operation'. He added, "Mr. Ijaz wanted us to release $15 million for a satellite communications company R.D.D.A. which had done some work for Pakistan in 1979 for which they were not paid and they would sue the government to recover the monies. Ijaz told us that in this way you will kill two birds with one stone, one we will ensure votes in the US House for the Brown Amendment and the other the company R.D.D.A. will not sue you".

The spokesman also said that when Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi was given this proposal she saw it as a trap wherein the Pakistani government could land in bigger trouble; so she turned down Mansoor's proposal saying that "it was illegal". In the Wall Street Journal article, Mansoor implied that Lodhi used "aggressive tactics" in pushing to recoup the payments for the stalled F-16s (the focus of the Brown Amendment) after the passage of the Amendment because her brother, Amir Lodhi, was interested in the Mirage deal with France as he was the middleman.

According to the 'Dawn Wire Service' of 04 October 1996, the Pakistan Embassy in Washington struck back with a press release in which it refuted Mansoor's allegations regarding the reasons for Maleeha Lodhi's eagerness to recoup the F-16 payments. Interestingly, the press release added that Mansoor had been urging Islamabad to recognize Israel. It said he had visited Israel on several occasions, once on the invitation of the mayor of Jerusalem.

The press release pointed out that in 1995 Mansoor had been given the "Humanitarian of the Year" award by a "major Jewish organization" (Endowment for Democracy – as mentioned earlier). It added further that the reasons for this award was his efforts in establishing clinics and schools in Belgium and parts of Eastern Europe for the Jewish communities there. The press release said Ambassador Ahmad Kamal, who attended the award ceremony, praised Mansoor and his "philanthropist activities". Then in his speech Mansoor thanked Ambassador Kamal's wife saying "Thank you Mrs. Kamal for Dal, Roti and Kabab". Also in October 1996, Mansoor served as a Plenary Session speaker on nuclear proliferation at the State of the World Forum in San Francisco, along with General Lee Butler, Senator Alan Cranston, Nobel laureate Joseph Rotblat and others. Not surprisingly, Mansoor was not too unhappy with the departure of the Bhutto government after President Farooq Khan Leghari sacked it on charges of corruption. It must be noted, in the meantime, that allegations of financial blackmail by Mansoor had surfaced in 'Dawn' and 'Dawn Wire Service' – both owned by Yusuf Haroon, the man who paid the price for Mansoor's decision to inform the US government about the coup plot against Bhutto.

Mansoor continued to maintain a high profile in the US on matters related to Pakistan and, increasingly, Sudan. He is said to have had good links with the Nawaz Sharif administration. It has been reported (Washington Post, 29/4/97) that by the summer of 1996, Mansoor was lobbying strongly for improved US-Sudan ties; Sudan has been on the US list of terrorism-supporting states since 1993. He reportedly made In a half-dozen trips to Khartoum between July 1996 and April 1997, and met several times with Sudan's president, Lt. Gen. Omar Hassan Bashir, and the country's real power – the militant Islamic leader, Speaker Hassan Al Turabi, advising them on how to soften the Clinton administration's position.

According to the Post, in that time frame, Mansoor also met with senior White House and State Department officials - including Sandy Berger - to urge "constructive engagement" which would include enlisting Turabi's help in curbing international terrorists. A White House spokesman subsequently said the Mansoor had provided helpful "insight", although other officials have said they did not find his analysis "compelling". Other officials he met included Susan E. Rice, special assistant to the president for African affairs; senior officials in the State Department's African affairs office; and several senior members of Congress, including Rep. Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.), ranking minority member on the House International Relations Committee, according to government sources. Mansoor also had meetings with FBI and U.S. intelligence officials. At the time, Mansoor had not registered with the Justice Department as a lobbyist for Sudan and said he had received no known compensation from the Khartoum regime.

The Post said that in April 1997, Mansoor "returned from another trip to Khartoum with a letter from Bashir to Hamilton. Bashir offered in the letter to allow FBI agents unrestricted access in Sudan to determine whether the government supports international terrorists, according to a Sudanese official". Hamilton passed the letter on to the State Department and told the Post that he had met Mansoor three or four times and found him "a very bright, energetic guy" with "a lot of contacts in the Sudan". The Post also quoted Mansoor as saying: "I am of the view that Doctor Turabi (then speaker of Sudan, an Islamic radical now marginalized somewhat in Sudanese politics) has access to every single major fringe radical group on the face of the planet," Ijaz said. "Let's use him to be our bridge to all of these fringe radical groups".

(This writer finds the statement by Mansoor to be debatable. Turabi, who fancies himself something of an intellectual with global pretensions (Sorbonne-educated PhD), does indeed have vast links across the spectrum of Islamist militant activity. But he is only a "moderate" within a militant spectrum. His antecedents are with the Muslim Brotherhood, and he will not hesitate to turn extremely radical if he judges the time to be right. In other words, his moderation is reserved for the right audience).

On 10 June 1997, Mansoor, provided a testimony to the House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime on "Prohibition on Financial Transactions With Countries Supporting Terrorism Act". According to a profile appended as Exhibit B to the testimony he had also become involved in "designing, funding and implementing projects for the people of third-world countries under the direction of his private foundation, The Ijaz Group. His current projects include structuring the asset management systems for the governments of the CIS and designing models for low-income housing in poor African countries". He was also becoming highly visible in the media, with op-ed pieces in the Wall Street Journal, LA Times, BARRON's Roundtable Currency discussions, ‘CNN', etc.

Mansoor by 1996/97 had begun displaying photographs in his New York office of him and Clinton, Gore, etc. Wearing his Crescent Investment hat, according to the Exhibit B profile, he had also "advised the Unity Government of President Nelson Mandela on low-income housing programs, President Sam Nujoma of Namibia on global investment programs for domestic pension plans, and President Haidar Aliev of Azerbaijan on investment of the revenues from Caspian oil reserves. He also meets regularly with the economic and political leaders of Russia, China, Israel, Pakistan, the Sudan and Persian Gulf states on economic and political issues related to his investment management business".

Yet his efforts with Sudan were to take a sudden turn for the worse, (at least temporarily). In summer 1997, the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were hit by bombs. The culprits were judged to have received help from Sudan and Afghanistan. In August 1997, both countries were hit by the US with cruise missiles, although later it was acknowledged that the Sudanese target was perhaps wrongly identified. What was Mansoor's Sudan angle? Well, Sudan was preparing to export oil around 1997 and Mansoor wanted to place himself in a position so that Crescent would be chosen to manage some of Sudan's export income.

After the Sudan developments, it did not take very long for Mansoor to raise his profile once again. In May 1998, India set off nuclear bombs, and this was followed by Pakistan within the month. Mansoor's analytical skills were much in demand by the broadcast and print media and he obliged. After the October 1999 coup in Pakistan, he was once again in high demand and his views (strongly anti-military) were well appreciated.

In the meantime, Mansoor had managed to get on the prestigious Council for Foreign Relations in the US where he got involved in policy recommendations for South Asia. His background in Washington and his current position no doubt helped Mansoor in arranging a discreet visit to Jammu & Kashmir in May 2000. The fact that he did not have to go through the usual check-up formalities at Srinagar airport in Kashmir may be explained by the fact that he was accompanied and guided throughout his visit in Kashmir by officials of the Indian intelligence agency Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) and military officials, who no doubt have assessed his present and future value as an opinion maker and policy driver.

Notes:

Dawn Wire Service (October 4, 1996); Dawn Newspaper (date unavailable); Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (April 25th & 28th, 1997); Washington Post (April 29, 1997); The News online; and Exhibit B from Mansoor Ijaz's Testimony to the House of Representatives (June 10, 1997, 10:00 am, at the Rayburn House Office Building). All the information contained in this article is in the public domain.

 

Copyright Bharat Rakshak