In their briefing to the Abbottabad Commission, Pakistan’s military passed the buck to the local police for not spotting the house Osama Bin Laden and his family had been living in for years.
Army’s board of inquiry, established under Lt-Gen Javed Iqbal, told the commission that the local Nawan Shehar police station was located close to Bin Laden’s compound; but the police failed to observe anything unusual about the place and no report on anything suspicious was ever filed neither by the police nor special branch, which were responsible to maintain a close watch on the area. This is according to the Abbottabad Commission report leaked to Arab news network Al Jazeera, a copy of which is available on its website.
The board of inquiry maintained that the police ignored or failed to take note of even the visible violation of cantonment regulations in the shape of construction of a third storey at the compound. “They also did not detect anything strange or noteworthy in the manner or the activities of the two brothers; while the special branch had the responsibility to keep an eye on all unusual activities, behaviours or visits to the area due to its proximity to Pakistan Military Academy (PMA), the board stated.”
“Since high-profile personalities regularly visited the PMA, sweeps were regularly carried out to ensure against any untoward incident. However, the special branch was understaffed and underequipped to do a proficient job,” the board stated. According to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)’s estimates and Bin Laden’s diary, he had moved to the areas in August 2005 and had maintained a low profile. “And as the house was located within the Abbottabad cantonment; it was least expected to draw any attention as a possible terror hideout,” the board said.
The board maintained that due to the presence of a plethora of security and intelligence agencies and civil and military organisations, it was difficult to coordinate and share information. Poor coordination among agencies, duplication of work, qualitative and quantitative inadequacies of training, skills and equipment were among the reasons that made it possible for Bin Laden to evade detection in Abbottabad, the board told the commission
Speaking before the commission, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) said that the American CIA had rented a number of houses in Islamabad, a development that had been reported to the government.
The spy agency said Bin Laden was not operational since 2005 and his Egyptian deputy Ayman al Zawahiri was running al Qaeda’s affairs; therefore, everyone, including the US, thought that Bin Laden was dead.
The commission rejected the ISI’s assertion, saying that the US had never called off its search for Bin Laden, they had just stopped sharing information with the ISI. The commission said the ISI abandoned its search as soon as it thought the US had stopped looking for Bin Laden.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2013.