The United States is pushing Pakistan not to make public the findings of a high-powered commission investigating the circumstances surrounding the presence and death of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in his Abbottabad compound on May 2.
The US opposition stems from its fears that the conclusions of the Abbottabad Commission may compromise the future operations of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Pakistan and its ‘local assets,’ said government officials familiar with the development.
“The US was in fact strongly against the very idea of any commission to investigate the Abbottabad incident,” said a security official, who chose to stay anonymous.
The high-level judicial commission headed by the senior most judge of the Supreme Court after the chief justice was formed following a national outcry over the failure of the country’s powerful security establishment to detect both the al Qaeda leader and the US midnight raid.
Officials acknowledged that making the outcome of the Abbottabad Commission’s probe public will be embarrassing for the security establishment but might provide classified details about how the CIA penetrated deep into Pakistan.
“It was an intelligence failure … let me put it this way, it was the mother of all intelligence failures,” said an intelligence official.
He said the security apparatus might not object to the Abbottabad Commission’s findings as ‘a lot has already been said about our failures, so we have nothing to fear.’
“What people don’t know at this moment is how the CIA operates in this country … what tools they use, what tactics they employ,” he added.
He said the findings of the commission might provide answers to all these ‘chilling questions.’
‘CIA informants’ held
Intelligence agencies have been collecting evidence and all the relevant details that could provide leads on how the world’s most recognised face managed to live undetected in a garrison town for so long, said another official.
“The arrest of several local people who were working for the CIA is also helpful in finding the unanswered questions,” the official revealed.
The ‘CIA informants’ were held in a nationwide crackdown in the wake of the Bin Laden debacle.
Amongst these ‘informants’ were Dr Shakeel Afridi, who launched a fake polio vaccination drive in Abbottabad on behalf of the CIA to get the DNA samples of the Bin Laden family.
His arrest has become a thorn in the already tense relations between Pakistan and the United States.
“The security agencies will certainly share all this information being gleaned from the CIA informants,” the official said.
This is one of the main reasons that the US is objecting to making public the findings of the commission, he said.
Meanwhile, the Abbottabad Commission is also planning to ask the US officials to explain their position on the controversy.
Lt General (retd) Nadeem Ahmed, a member of the commission, recently said in an interview that the commission is planning on trying to get testimonies from US officials, and added that if no one testified, the panel would note their refusals in its record.
A US diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity ruled out the possibility of American officials testifying before the Abbottabad commission.
When approached, US Embassy spokesperson Courtney Beale denied that the US had communicated any sort of opposition to the commission and/or making its report public. She, however, refused to comment on whether the US was opposed to making the findings public.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2011.