Abbottabad fiasco: Government names probe commission

Published: June 1, 2011
Supreme Court Judge Javed Iqbal to head the five-member panel which will have a jurist and retired bureaucrats.

Supreme Court Judge Javed Iqbal to head the five-member panel which will have a jurist and retired bureaucrats.


Almost a month after al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in an airborne operation by US commandos in Abbottabad, the government has unveiled an independent commission to investigate the May 2 top-secret raid.

The announcement came a day after opposition parties warned the government to set up the commission by June 3 – the day when the federal budget for the next fiscal year will be unveiled – or else face the music.

“Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has constituted a commission to investigate the Abbottabad incident,” said a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Secretariat on Tuesday.

The five-member commission will be headed by Justice Javed Iqbal, a senior judge of the Supreme Court, it added. Other members of the commission are Justice Fakhruddin G Ebrahim, Lt-Gen (retd) Nadeem Ahmed, former police chief Abbas Khan and former ambassador Ashraf Jahangir Qazi. The cabinet secretary will work as secretary of the commission.

The commission has been appointed in compliance with a resolution passed by a closed-door joint session of parliament earlier this month. The parliament urged the government to investigate how Bin Laden had been able to hide out so close to the capital and whether government or military collusion had played a part.

Lawmakers at the time said such a probe must also  investigate how US forces entered and then left Pakistan’s sovereign territory apparently undetected and said the incident must not be repeated.

On Monday Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, leader of the opposition in the National Assembly disclosed that he had proposed the names of Justice (retd) Shafiur Rehman, Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid, Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim, Majeed Nizami, Asma Jahangir and Mehmood Khan Achakzai for the commission.

But interestingly, most of these names are missing from the commission appointed by the prime minister.

The statement does not detail the commission’s remit or terms of reference. Neither does it set a timeframe for the investigation. It is unknown whether or not the commission would be authorised to fix responsibility for the Abbottabad fiasco.

The commission will be mandated “to ascertain the full facts regarding the presence of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan; investigate circumstances and facts regarding the US operation in Abbottabad on May 2, 2011; determine the nature, background and causes of lapses of the concerned authorities, if any; and make consequential recommendations.”

Reacting to the announcement, President of the Supreme Court Bar Association Asma Jahangir said that the government should have consulted the chief justice of Pakistan before appointing Justice Javed Iqbal as head of the commission and for its terms of reference.

She said a sitting judge can’t be appointed to any commission without the approval of CJP. Therefore, the appointment of Justice Javed Iqbal as head of the commission “is illegal and unconstitutional.”

The reaction of different political parties was, however, mixed. Ahsan Iqbal, the spokesperson for opposition PML-N, quite unusually refrained from giving a knee-jerk reaction.

“The PML-N will come up with its reaction after its parliamentary party meeting to be held today (Wednesday),” he told The Express Tribune.

Professor Khursheed of the Jamaat-e-Islami said that he was satisfied with the commission’s makeup but had some reservations about its terms of reference. He regretted that no timeframe has been set for the commission to complete its investigation.

Haji Adeel of the ANP, a coalition partner of the ruling PPP, said that the government has met the main demand of the PML-N by appointing Justice Javed Iqbal as the head of the commission. “Once it starts working the commission will frame its rules of business and set a timeframe,” he told The Express Tribune.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 1st, 2011.

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Reader Comments (12)

  • May 31, 2011 - 10:58PM

    Would it stop US from drone attacks and other unilateral raids???Recommend

  • Hasan
    May 31, 2011 - 11:02PM

    Apart from Justice (retired) Fakhruddin G. Ibrahim, who is independent in the list of commission members?Recommend

  • mahmood
    May 31, 2011 - 11:39PM

    The sole focus of Pakistan has been anger at America for exposing their complicity +/or incompetence for allowing OBL to live comfortably outside the Pakistan Military Academy. I don’t hold much hope in this commission spending anytime actually trying to ascertain the who/what/where/why associated with OBL – just jabs at the USA for violating sovereignty.Recommend

  • Mirza
    Jun 1, 2011 - 12:39AM

    Would this judicial commission have the power to find out the main question that is being avoided in Pakistan? How OBL was brought to a safe house in an army base? How did he manage to live there for at least 5 long years with his kids and harem? Who thought and designed the custom fortress at the safe place specifically for him?

    The question of US invasion is a simple one. If there were no OBL, there would be no invasion of that home. If I am hosting the worst murderer and terrorist in my home in the US or any other country, I would lose my protection of privacy. If there were no OBL, only then it would be fair to condemn the US invasion. In fact not a single Pakistani military/ISI or political official has contradicted that OBL was not there. In fact this successful mission of US forces in the heartland of Pakistan proved that the high value targets cannot be protected, no matter where they are.Recommend

  • Fahad Zafar
    Jun 1, 2011 - 1:34AM

    What would this commission do? Can it interrogate US officials who took part in the raid? Can it recommend PM Gillani to instruct Air Chief to shoot down US/ Nato intruders?Recommend

  • Ignorant Infidel
    Jun 1, 2011 - 2:02AM

    What is the focus of this commission — more of the anti USA mantra espoused by your Parliament or are they actually going to find out how/why OBL was hiding in the shadow of the Pakistan Military Academy? Perhaps it’s time to resolve those questions – clean house – and start to repair your reputation.Recommend

  • Asim
    Jun 1, 2011 - 7:41AM

    @Fahad Zafar:
    Exactly just waste of time and yeah yet another way to spend lots of Pakistani TAX payers money over bureaucrats!Recommend

  • Jun 1, 2011 - 9:05AM

    I agree with the comment of Mr. Hasan. But having known and worked with Mr. Justice Fakhruddin I can say this without fear of contradiction: If he thinks that the Commission is trying to sweep the truth under the carpet, or that even one member is trying to cover-up for any institution or any such thing, he will resign immediately. After all gave up his Supreme Court judgeship because he would not swear allegiance to a dictator and resigned as Attorney General on principle. We have very few like him. By the way is Justice Javed Iqbal the same who was willing to become Chief Justice when Justice Ifthikhar Chaudhry was sacked by President Musharraf?Recommend

  • Jun 1, 2011 - 9:55AM

    Was the murder case of Justice Javaid Iqbal’s parents solved? his brother was pleading not guilty even though he was arrested .. Recommend

  • Jan Mohammad
    Jun 1, 2011 - 10:26AM

    PML-N must cool down after their own ‘opposition’ lapses for 33 months.They have also disappointed nation by not performing their required role allowing Supreme commander to only promote most polarized polity,divisive society and allowing the blackmailers,opportunists,target killers,bathakhors as MQM,PPP-Z,ANP,MLQ to become master of nation destiny leading it to total destruction by corruption and incompetence.However,defense srvices have to do their own monitoring,screening and accountability far more closely and stay away from dirty politics of politicians.Gen Kayani has so far been a non political person.Let the Inquiry commission do its jobs most effectively giving suggestion that ensure such lapses do not occur again.Recommend

  • Jun 1, 2011 - 1:29PM

    Useless! Another billion will be spent for nothing. Recommend

  • Khalid Rahim
    Jun 1, 2011 - 8:21PM

    The left hand of this government upholds Ignorance and the right hand upholds Arrogance.
    With these two at hand the Prime Minister without consulting the opposition leader, the Chief
    Justice of Supreme Court appointed a commission , naming a sitting judge of the apex court
    by passing the CJ of Supreme Court. The bare fact that the government is simply throwing dust in the public eyes and wants to wash their negligence down the drain.Recommend

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