Chief of the Abbottabad judicial commission Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal has said that investigation into the May 2 incursion by US navy SEALs which killed Osama bin Laden was the second most important in Pakistan’s history after the 1971 debacle entrusted to the Hamoodur Rehman Commission and vowed to disclose its findings.
In a brief interaction with the media at the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa House on Tuesday evening, he said the commission was investigating the May 2 episode from every angle and would compile a detailed report based on its findings, but he did not rule out ‘procedural delays’.
Over the next two days, the members will record statements from people who may have information on the midnight raid. He urged people to come forward to give evidence.
On the first day, Justice Iqbal confirmed the commission members visited the Army Aviation Base, Tarbela, which reportedly monitors all the air traffic en route to Hazara division, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir.
He said they had also been to Kundar in Torghar district, the Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul, and OBL’s compound. The commission inspected the exact location in Torghar where US military helicopters were reportedly stationed during the operation, according to sources.
He refused to answer journalists’ questions and explained that he had decided to share the first day’s engagements only because they had been waiting for several hours. “I am not in favour of issuing statements.”
According to details pieced together from various sources, Base Commander Col Hamid Bashir briefed the members on the operational capacities and the radar system and other technologies used for aerial operations and air traffic at Tarbela base.
The members questioned Col Bashir on the radars’ failure to detect the American helicopters on May 2 and visited the radar room. They flew to Abbottabad where they examined Bin Laden’s three-storey mansion for over two hours and gathered evidence. The commission tried to speak to neighbours, but male members were not home and women did not volunteer to share information.
The commission is mandated to probe how Bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan went undetected, investigate circumstances surrounding the 40-minute US covert operation that targeted him as well as the nature and causes of lapses by the concerned authorities before finalising its recommendations.
The ten-member commission comprises some well-known officers, including former inspector general police Abbas Khan, former ambassador to US Ashraf Jehangir Qazi and Lt Gen. (retd) Nadeem Ahmed. During the three-day visit to Hazara, it will interview government officials, including those from the police, intelligence agencies and the revenue department, army aviation personnel and journalists. The commission has already received 500 applications from volunteers.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 14th, 2011.