As a prolific op-ed writer, he has railed against Pakistani government corruption (specifically targeting Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister assassinated in 2007) and touted his work to improve American perceptions of Muslims as well as U.S. relations with Islamic governments. He became known for his efforts in Sudan and for trying in 2000 to broker a ceasefire deal between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir conflict. Both “interventions,” as he calls them, earned him supporters and detractors.
Not long after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Ijaz enlisted Woolsey for a mission: They would fly on a private plane into Afghanistan to negotiate the release of humanitarian workers being held by the Taliban. Ijaz says they were also trying, behind the scenes, to secure a meeting with Taliban leader Mohammad Omar to convince him to “come clean” and hand over bin Laden, his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri and other al-Qaeda operatives.
Woolsey says he has forgotten many of the details, but “it’s entirely plausible that Mansoor thought we could get something else. . . . It is not impossible that grander objectives could have been achieved.” The mission was scrubbed, though, when the U.S. bombing commenced.
The former CIA chief says Ijaz “frequently tries to do things that are difficult but helpful to people.” And, laughing heartily, Woolsey adds, “He is not a boring guy.”
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In Pakistan, some describe Ijaz as an example of those expats who seek respect in their ancestral country by cultivating connections with the powerful. “He wanted to be counted as a player,” says Mumtaz Ahmad, president of the Islamic International University and former Brookings Institution fellow who has followed Ijaz’s various exploits.
But because Ijaz isn’t from one of Pakistan’s known families, his American-won wealth and education do not count for much among the elite there.
“Influential people don’t migrate from Pakistan,” says Mohammad Malick, Islamabad editor of the News, a Pakistani newspaper. “Ninety-nine percent of people who have gone abroad are economic migrants, and you only become an economic migrant if you’re a nobody in Pakistan.”
No matter: Ijaz derives his identity from his U.S. citizenship, calls himself “the embodiment of the American dream” and says his wealth only matters in relation to the good he can do.
“God gave me so much in this world, but if all I left in the world was a jet on the runway, a yacht in the harbor, 10 homes around the world, and my wife’s 5,000 pairs of shoes, I will not have done my job,” he said.
After the Financial Times op-ed, the relationship between the ambassador and his businessman buddy became frosty, according to the BlackBerry messages proffered by Ijaz. “Basically you don’t get it,” Haqqani told Ijaz. “You have given hardliners in Pak Mil [the Pakistani military] reason to argue there was an effort to get US to conspire against Pak Mil.”
Ijaz responded: “I wrote one article.”
Haqqani: “Let this die down. We are in the right. We will still make things happen.”
When Pakistan’s foreign office issued a flat denial of the memo’s existence, and the press suggested Ijaz was a fantasist, he went into overdrive to prove the diplomat’s involvement.
“Attacks on my person will not be tolerated,” Ijaz wrote in November. “Stop telling lies about me and I might just [stop] telling the truth about you.”
Haqqani made another appeal: “If you were to listen to my advice, you would let this blow over.”
But the political storm, by then, was too fierce to weather. “When I look at this in hindsight,” Ijaz says, “I wish I had not answered the [BlackBerry] that day.”
Yachting might have been more pleasant.
Staff writers Karin Brulliard in Islamabad and Karen DeYoung in Washington contributed to this report.