ISLAMABAD: Declaring it a matter of national security, the government has called for forming a parliamentary panel to probe into the recent disclosures by Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States about the role PPP’s government had allegedly played in tracking down Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
In an opinion piece published in The Washington Post on March 13, Husain Haqqani admitted facilitating stationing of US special operations and intelligence personnel in Pakistan and forging links that had eventually allowed Washington to carry out the 2011 raid in Abbottabad to eliminate the former al Qaeda chief.
Haqqani also indicated that while Islamabad was ‘officially kept out of the loop’, the PPP-led government was aware of both the developments. The claims had stirred a new controversy with the PPP rejecting Haqqani’s assertions and leader of opposition Khursheed Shah calling him a ‘traitor’.
Addressing the National Assembly on a point of order on Wednesday, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif suggested forming a parliamentary panel to investigate Haqqani’s claims — a suggestion duly endorsed by other mainstream political parties, including the PTI and MQM.
“The article written by Haqqani is directly related to our national security. It is a breach of national security at the highest level that needs to be investigated.
“Allegations hurled against former president Asif Ali Zardari and prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani need to be investigated by a parliamentary commission to ascertain facts,” Asif said.
The defence minister said there was also a need to investigate issuance of visas in bulk to CIA operatives and unaccounted for expenses valuing at $6 million made by Haqqani during his tenure in office. “Bin Laden’s killing on Pakistani soil added to the problems of the country,” he said.
Asif said Haqqani had clearly mentioned names of a former president and a prime minister and admitted that foreign agency operatives had been brought into Pakistan after their approval. “Haqqani also endorsed the fact that Pakistan’s security agencies had no knowledge of that development,” he added.
He said the PPP’s top leadership has not yet denied the contents of the article, adding that calling Haqqani a ‘traitor’ was not enough. “Not only the former ambassador, president, and prime minister but also former interior minister Rehman Malik were aware of the matter,” he added.
Obviously irked by the demand, Khursheed Shah, who also belongs to the PPP, said the proposed investigations should be carried out in depth to settle the issue once and for all.
“The probe should not be kept limited to the said article of Haqqani. Rather, it should be expanded to Memogate scandal, Dawn leaks, and against all those who had links with bin Laden, facilitated his infiltration in Pakistan and gave him money to oust Benazir Bhutto’s government in past,” he said.
Shah also demanded that the Abbotabad Commission report — compiled by the Pakistan to ascertain facts involving the bin Laden episode — should also be made public and presented before parliament.
PTI’s Dr Arif Alvi and Shafqat Mehmood endorsed the proposal of setting up a parliamentary commission, saying its proceedings should not be held behind closed doors so that people of Pakistan could know the truth. “Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should also make pubic the reports of the Memogate and Abbottabad commissions,” Alvi said.
MQM’s Sheikh Salahuddin said Haqqani had admitted his links with officials of foreign countries beyond his mandate. “A lot of clarifications are required which are not possible without setting up a probe body,” he added.
Later, the National Assembly deputy speaker asked all political parties’ representatives to sit together and form terms of reference (ToRs) for the proposed parliamentary commission.
Talking to the media, Rehman Malik later rejected Haqqani’s claims and said he had nothing to do with issuance of visas to the CIA operatives.
“Visas issuance is a matter left totally to the discretion of the ambassador. The interior ministry is just involved in visa renewal,” Malik said. “Neither Zardari and Gilani nor I have anything to do with the issue as claimed by Haqqani. However, the PPP will welcome formation of a parliamentary or judicial commission,” he added.
Zafar Ali Shah files petition in SC
A former PML-N senator Zafar Ali Shah has approached the Supreme Court seeking direction to the federal government to initiate proceedings against Haqqani, Zardari and Gilani under Article 6 of the Constitution for violating their oath.
The petitioner has also requested the top court to pass a direction to the interior ministry for placing names of the former president and prime minister on the Exit Control List (ECL).
The petition — filed under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution — says the respondents compromised the national security by allowing the CIA operatives to infiltrate into Pakistan and hunt down bin Laden.
Shah says Haqqani was the main character in Memogate case, which is still pending in the apex court, adding that his claims have not been denied by the former president and PM.
The petitioner also requested the SC that the foreign ministry be directed to provide complete detail of visas issued by Haqqani to Americans during his tenure. He also requested the chief justice to form a full-court bench for hearing his petition.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 16th, 2017.