Not shying away from pulling the trigger on yet another controversy, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) said on Tuesday that President Asif Ali Zardari, co-chairman of the party, is not obligated to respond to the questions sent to him by the Abbottabad Commission.
“It is optional, not binding, for the president to answer those queries,” PPP Information Secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira told The Express Tribune as the commission began interviewing politicians representing major political groups.
Headed by former Supreme Court Judge Justice (Retd) Javed Iqbal, the commission investigating the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, said last week that it had sent a set of queries to the president in his capacity as the PPP chief.
However the ruling party has maintained all along that being head of the state, its chief was exempted from any legal procedures and no court or the commission could seek an explanation or ask any questions of him.
Kaira, however, said the party was still to hold an internal consultation on whether its co-chairman should respond to the commission’s queries and did not entirely rule out the possibility of Zardari getting back to them with answers.
He, however, clarified that the questions sent by the commission were meant for the chief of the party and not the president. “We will hold consultations within the party to think about it,” Kaira said.
However, he said he was unsure whether some other PPP member could represent the party chief before the panel.
On the other hand, a spokesperson for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) said that MNA Khawaja Asif would appear before the commission to represent the party but its chief Nawaz Sharif might avoid direct appearance.
“Mian Sahib [Nawaz] will not go to the commission himself. Khawaja Asif will represent him,” Dr Asif Kirmani, spokesperson for the former premier, told The Express Tribune from Lahore.
Meanwhile, a handout statement issued by the commission’s secretariat said that leaders of the Awami National Party (ANP), Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) were interviewed by the probe body.
ANP President Asfandyar Wali Khan and Senator Afrasayab Khattak appeared before the commission and reportedly urged its members to come up with facts about not only the overnight raid by US commandos but also how Bin Laden managed to live in Pakistan for so many years, unnoticed.
JI vice chief Senator Professor Khursheed Ahmed and PTI leader Hamid Khan were also interviewed by the commission.
The commission had summoned Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US Hussain Haqqani next week on December 19 to question him regarding the hundreds of visas that he issued to individuals allegedly linked to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
The commission will interview Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed the same day and has already summoned Pakistan’s High Commissioner in the UK Wajid Shamsul Hassan for the last week of December.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 14th, 2011.