JULY 10- A High-Powered judicial commission has asked the heads of Pakistan government, military and intelligence agencies to apologise to the nation for their “incompetence” in detecting the presence of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in the country. The suggestion made in a report of the judicial panel, formed to probe the death of Laden, is not just stern in its tone but also suggestive of the reluctance of the agencies and leadership to be a part of an international hunt for the world’s most-wanted terrorist.
Power corridors, including the Prime Minister’s house and the general headquarters in Rawalpindi, are abuzz with the accusations that the military, politicians and intelligence agencies of Pakistan failed to track down Osama’s as well as CIA’s operations on their soil. The principal intelligence agency of the US, under the nose of Pakistan’s military and the ISI, traced Laden to Abbottabad and passed on the information to White House, which sent a team of Navy SEALs on May 2, 2011 to get Laden. “The presence of a CIA network inside Pakistan tasked to trace bin Laden without the Pakistani establishment’s knowledge was ‘a case of nothing less than a collective and sustained dereliction of duty by the political, military and intelligence leadership of the country,” the 336-page report states.
Interestingly, neither the Pakistan government nor the heads of military and ISI have reacted to the accusations made by the Abbottabad Commission that consisted of Pakistani investigators. A wave of anger, however, has been felt across the nation after the report was made public by a foreign news channel, Al Jazeera, late on Monday. The report throws light on the private life of Laden in Pakistan soon after the 9/11 terror attack in the US and clearly states that the Pakistani intelligence agencies, the army and the political leadership did not know till May 2, 2011 that Laden was living freely in their country.
According to insiders, the revelations have jolted Pakistan’s powerful military that claims a major chunk of the annual budget in the name of defence of the country’s border. Sources told MAIL TODAY that the authorities have briefed new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif about the situation, who may offer an apology to the nation in the days to come. The Abbottabad Commission has questioned several dozen officials, including serving military officers, to compile a comprehensive report on Osama’s death.
The one thing that is clear from the Abbottabad Commission report is the fact that the world’s No. 1 terrorist enjoyed official hospitality in Pakistan for nine long years despite repeated denials by the country’s leadership.
It also reinforces the theory that Pakistan is the epicentre of terrorism, and that Osama bin Laden was no stray fugitive who had taken shelter in Pakistan. Laden made a conscious choice to stay in Pakistan as he was confident that the US and its allies will not be able to trace him there. Another important disclosure is the ISI chief’s admission before the commission that the agency was in touch with the Haqqani network.
Despite the recent Pakistani overtures to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, India must ensure that its concerns on terrorism are addressed and must not forget that there cannot be business as usual till the perpetrators of 26/11 Mumbai attacks are punished.
While it is alright to have the usual diplomatic interactions, it will be disastrous to jump and accept Pakistan’s invite to the Prime Minister for a trip to his native place, Gah. The leaked report of Pakistan’s judicial commission clearly indicates that despite denials, the country will continue its support to terror networks which pose danger to India’s national interest.
The question that comes immediately to mind is, why has the report come out at this stage? Clearly, the only one who comes out unscathed is Nawaz Sharif and his PML-N, for the simple reason that they were not part of the government in 2011.
At the moment, it would appear that, if you take this along with Musharraf’s case of treason, there is a feeling in some sections of the PML-N and the political elite to put the army and the ISI further on the back foot. It raises very inconvenient questions for the army and the ISI, because even though it is critical of everyone, the real brunt will have to be borne by the army leadership. That’s one aspect that needs to be carefully studied, as to what its repercussions will be within Pakistan.
The report also characterises US’s Abbottabad operation as the greatest humiliation since 1971. So it’s very strongly critical of everyone, because if you characterise this incident as second only to the defeat Pakistan suffered in 1971, then the implication is obvious. Will it lead to soul searching? Will it lead to questioning about Pakistan’s main threats, and whether they are from India or other quarter? On that, I think there is no evidence as yet that the Pakistan military leadership will be willing to go in for such soul searching.