We have our own version of Wikileaks. Indeed this leak, of the Abbottabad Commission report into the May 2011 raid by US Navy Seals, which ended with the killing of Osama bin Laden, constitutes virtually a hemorrhage of information, rather than a leak.
It is, indeed, unfortunate that the report, completed by the Commission set up under Justice Javed Iqbal by the Supreme Court in June 2011, was not officially made public and we needed to wait for a media leak to learn of its contents. The Commission itself had recommended, after it was submitted to then prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, that it be realeased. This, of course, never happened, and the emergence of the report with the al Jazeera channel, from where it has, of course, been widely picked up by the media, raises questions regarding the possible exchange of money and the matter of who profited from this. The aspect needs inquiry in itself, with a commission possibly required to do so.
But meanwhile, the details of the report leave us quite a lot to think about. The Commission, after interviewing some 300 witnesses, has painted a picture of total chaos and a lack of coordination between key agencies — and attributes this as the factor, which allowed the world’s most wanted man to remain in the country for some nine years, embarrassingly going undetected even though he had located himself in the garrison town of Abbottabad. The Commission blames this on the top leadership of military and civilian agencies, stating that it is finally responsible for the inefficiency demonstrated by subordinates at all levels, who failed to pick up information about the presence of Osama in Abbottabad. Also disconcerting are the details of the US raid. While the Commission’s finding that it took place on the basis of intelligence provided from the ground and support leading up to it, is not surprising, we should be concerned over how long it took to detect a foreign presence, ominously close to our capital city, with air force planes scrambled from the Sargodha Airbase only hours after the US troops had conducted their mission.
As a nation, we should also be concerned about the lies told by persons in responsible positions. The Commission has identified lies told to the effect that all that had happened had been with Pakistan’s consent. There must have been others who lied as well in the highly sensitive matter, though the Commission also notes that some key witnesses who appeared before it, including the then defence minister, were truthful and made no pretences.
The Osama episode, and all that it entailed, then clearly involved a security failure at the top level. As a country with a great many security and intelligence concerns, we should carefully consider all that has come out and all that we now know. The Commission sensibly decided to name no individuals. This was wise given that the entire issue is one of the overall working of the system rather than the responsibility of one or two individuals. Something else to look at is also the secrecy of our state. The report, which has now made headlines everywhere, should have been before us long ago. This did not happen. As in many other matters before this, there may have been an attempt to cover up what happened in Abbottabad that night in May 2011. Naturally, this is unfortunate. All those responsible for matters of governance should remember that we live in an age where nothing can remain hidden for very long. It tends to surface one way or the other, and the best policy in such circumstances would be to put it before citizens openly so that the whole saga of leakages and what these entail can be avoided. This would be just one lesson to learn from the Abbottabad saga and its aftermath.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2013.
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