The findings of the Abbottabad Commission are finally to be presented to Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf – and will constitute the first official version of the events that took place on May 2, 2011, from Pakistan’s side.
The details are not scarce, but they are contradictory: the 700-page report consists of 200 recommendations compiled after interviewing 300 witnesses and 3,000 documents; however, the account described is completely different from the American version, according to a well-placed law ministry official assisting the commission. He spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject.
According to the report, the findings are based on statements taken from Osama bin Laden’s family, his neighbours and government officials who entered the compound after the US special forces’ raid as well as senior government and military officials.
Some of the details are surprisingly personal – Bin Laden lived in the compound from 2005 to 2011, never left the residence during his stay, and watched Al Jazeera Television for news alerts regarding al Qaeda.
During the raid that ended the life of the world’s ‘most wanted terrorist’, Bin Laden advised his family members to be patient and to read the Kalma Sharif.
Dr Afridi’s role
Dr Shakeel Afridi, a Pakistani doctor now notorious for helping the CIA trace the al Qaeda kingpin in the Abbottabad compound, was described in detail in the report. According to the findings, Dr Afridi was unaware of the fact that he was assigned to collect DNA samples of Bin Laden’s children.
Dr Afridi met CIA officials at an NGO office in Peshawar. After having a couple of meetings with the CIA officials, he agreed to carry out a hepatitis immunisation campaign exclusively in Abbottabad. The campaign was carried out thrice, but he failed to collect any blood or DNA samples.
After that, Dr Afridi acquired the services of a lady health worker for the immunisation campaign. She established contact with Khalid al Kuwaiti, Bin Laden’s messenger. Al Kuwaiti allowed her to administer hepatitis vaccine to the children on the condition that she would not enter the compound. The samples were obtained and sent to the US for confirmation.
The report also reveals that Dr Afridi had a device on him which a female CIA official from Islamabad used to contact him. The CIA obtained further information about Bin Laden through the same infrared enabled device.
The plan was an elaborate one. The doctor would travel to Islamabad, where he would meet the CIA official in a black car. Both Dr Afridi, and the agent, would in the car with their heads lowered to dodge intelligence agencies.
Dr Amna, the assistant of Dr Afridi, carried out a voice-matching process for Bin Laden’s wife Khairia.
The report further reveals that Dr Afridi was asked to wind up his project and leave Pakistan after the DNA confirmation. He was asked to shift to the US till the day when the Abbottabad compound was raided. The CIA paid Dr Afridi $10,000 for the phony campaign.
In its recommendations, the commission suggests that consolidating links with secret agencies of other countries, a comprehensive strategy to deter covert operations of foreign forces and military diplomacy would be the best way to halt May 2-style raids in the future.
The report says the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had given to the CIA four phone numbers of the al Qaeda chief and two letters containing information of Bin Laden’s stay in Abbottabad.
The law ministry official said the report was finalised two months ago, but could not be submitted to the prime minister because one of the commission’s members, former inspector general of police Abbas Khan, was undergoing heart treatment in the US and was thus not available. “After clearance from the law ministry, the commission will now submit its report to the prime minister in a couple of weeks … members need to hold one last meeting to get their notes recorded,” the official told The Express Tribune.
He also revealed that “commission’s members had some serious differences when the findings were being recorded, which led to a delay of almost a year”. He added that three members of the commission had already signed the report earlier and that the law ministry was then officially asked by head of the commission, Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal, to cancel the membership of Abbas Khan because he was not available to sign the report.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 17th, 2012.