With the military already on the back foot following the US special forces’ raid in Abbottabad, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Wednesday accused the country’s intelligence agencies of negligence and incompetence.
PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, who only recently returned home after medical treatment in London, also ratcheted up the pressure on the PPP-led government.
Sharif rejected a military-led investigation ordered by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Monday into the May 2 raid that had killed al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and the circumstances surrounding the operation.
Instead, Sharif called for a judicial inquiry into the incident to dispel doubts about its objectivity. He said a six-member judicial commission should be set up within three days for the inquiry.
The proposed commission should complete its investigation within 21 days and then submit its report to Parliament, he added.
Sharif said that he has also written a letter to the prime minister demanding the formation of the commission. He said the chief justice of Pakistan should head the proposed commission which should include the chief justices of the five high courts of the country.
The PML-N chief was speaking at a press conference at the conclusion of a two-day consultative meeting of his party in Islamabad.
The PML-N is now effectively the only opposition group in parliament after the PML-Q and the MQM joined the PPP-led ruling coalition. Sharif, however, did not say what his party would do if his demand was ignored.
Interestingly, Sharif spared the government in his tirade over the undetected breach of the country’s sovereignty by US forces. Instead, he heaped criticism on the security forces for the “worst case of negligence and incompetence.”
“It is a matter of serious concern that our security institutions knew nothing when the helicopter gunships and commandos remained in our territory and airspace for so long,” he said.
Sharif also questioned how the world’s most wanted man could be holed up in a compound less than a kilometre from the nation’s top military academy.
“Why could our secret agencies, which are always engaged in chasing politicians or playing political gimmicks, not detect him?” he said. This intelligence failure has affected the morale of the armed forces and shocked the nation, he added.
Sharif also bemoaned the damage that the incident had caused to the country’s reputation abroad. “Isn’t it true that the world considers us a country that abets and exports terrorism?” he said. “Isn’t it true that all crimes everywhere in the world have links with our home?”
A few days after the US military’s top-secret operation in Abbottabad, the military leadership announced an investigation into the incident. Subsequently, Premier Gilani also announced an inquiry by Pakistan Army’s Adjutant-General Lt Gen Javed Iqbal.
Neither the military nor the civilian authorities have come out with the terms of reference of the inquiry committee or a timeframe for the investigation.
The PML-N, which used to be considered a pro-establishment party in the past, has been criticising the military and intelligence agencies for some time now.
However, sources say that the party is divided on its confrontation with the powerful military establishment. A group, led by Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, is in favour of such a confrontation but another group, led by Shahbaz Sharif, is opposed to the idea.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2011.