Islamabad, Dec. 1 (PTI): The Pakistan Supreme Court today ordered a time-bound probe into the memogate scandal and sought responses within 15 days from President Asif Ali Zardari, the army chief and the ISI boss on petitions seeking an investigation into the controversy.
The court said that former envoy to US Husain Haqqani, who was forced to resign over the scandal, should not leave the country till a decision is announced.
Responses had also been sought from Haqqani and Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz, who made the memo public.
The court order was delivered by a nine-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. The bench took into account nine separate petitions seeking a probe into the scandal.
Zardari, army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, ISI boss Lt Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha and others were named as respondents in one of the petitions, filed by former Prime Minister and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif.
Sharif told the court that the issue should be probed as it has raised important questions relating to Pakistans national security and sovereignty.
The court said the probe commission could be headed by former Federal Investigation Agency chief Tariq Khosa, who led the investigation into the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
However, the bench noted that this would depend on whether Khosa agrees to head the panel.
The apex court said a cyber expert could be part of the commission to examine evidence linked to the memo. The commission was asked to complete its investigation in three weeks.
The Supreme Court also accepted Sharifs plea that Haqqani should not be allowed to leave Pakistan till the probe is completed.
It said the foreign and interior secretaries would be held responsible if Haqqani left Pakistan.
The court took note of interior minister Rehman Maliks recent remarks that there was evidence of an exchange of SMS and BlackBerry messages between Haqqani and Ijaz.
Speaking to reporters outside the court, senior PML-N leader Khwaja Asif described the ruling as historic and said the bench had directed the commission to conduct a time-bound probe.
The court has ordered that all evidence on the scandal available with the government or intelligence agencies should be given to the commission, Asif added.
The secret memorandum, made public by Ijaz, had sought US military help to prevent a military takeover in Pakistan in the wake of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May.
The memo also committed the Pakistan government to wide-ranging changes in its national security set-up, including the removal of military officials believed to be linked to militants.
Sharif told the bench that he had not come to the court to criticise Zardari. Noting that the ISI chief had met Ijaz to get details of the matter, Sharif said the persons named in his petition should be called to court and questioned.