What the OBL report means for Pakistan

While it doesn't establish Pakistan’s complicity in hiding OBL, it does highlight a complete communication failure.

Atika Rehman July 10, 2013
The writer is senior sub-editor at The Express Tribune

It’s like May 2, 2011 all over again. Except that instead of missing pieces and details, there is a story to satiate your ghairat’s rabidly thirsty disbelief.

Don’t be fooled by the faded A4 paper and plain typewriter font; this isn’t a US Navy Seal’s best-selling hardcover of the Osama bin Laden (OBL) raid. It’s painfully bare in terms of storytelling but there is lots of colour. Quotes from Bin Laden’s wives; his children and the families of those who protected him in his final years. There’s mention of a cowboy hat OBL wore; the six sets of shalwar kameez he had for the winter and summer. It even tells you that OBL’s remedy for lethargy is some chocolate and fruit. And that he was nicknamed miskeen baba by the naive child of the operative who guarded him. All this and more is available for your viewing pleasure in a ‘leaked’ 337-page report of the Abbottabad Commission’s findings, obtained and made public by Al Jazeera.

It is obvious that Pakistani authorities (the government and military) did not want to officially make the report public upon its conclusion, since it places the blame entirely on them for failing to develop any reliable intelligence that would have helped track down the world’s most-wanted terrorist or the raid that took him out. Making it public would mean the powers that be would once again feel pressure to explain their lapses.

Without holding back, the report describes the lazy approach of local security officials towards their duties (words used are “unhurried and laidback”) and also underscores that “the disconnect between the civilian and intelligence administration seems to have been complete”. While it does not establish Pakistan’s complicity in hiding OBL, it does highlight a complete communication breakdown between our security agencies, along with an almost sluggish attitude towards gathering intelligence that could have prevented this national embarrassment.

But while the commission’s observations do confirm one’s suspicions of the military’s handling (or lack thereof) of the incident, apart from a request to offer the nation an apology, no name has been spotlighted in being responsible for the “national tragedy”. How far can this unwillingness to bring those responsible to task continue?

The entire episode reeks of an absence of ministerial responsibility — a concept alien to our country. From the list of “national tragedies” that have befallen us, there is not one where a person at the helm of affairs has stepped down. The need for someone to take responsibility and step down to set a precedent is as great now as it was two years ago, when it came to light that OBL took refuge in Pakistan for nearly a decade and the US conducted a raid without our security agencies having a clue that it was being planned.

If May 2 is, as the report terms it, “the biggest failure [of national security] since 1971”, now is the time to act. Indeed, this report is not the “end of the world” for Pakistan. But it should be reason enough for there to be a review and restructuring of our military and civilian agencies? The current parliament needs to take this matter seriously, and be dynamically involved in drafting policies of national security. There has to be greater parliamentary oversight of the national security and intelligence apparatus, as should be the case in ever democracy.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2013.

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Manoj Joshi India | 10 years ago | Reply

The times are most trying for The Islamic Republic of Pakistan and their exercise with regard to improving bilateral relations with The Republic of India is being retarded by hawks in the system.This is true in case of of both the nations but with changing times progressive and positives moves are needed on the political, diplomatic and economic front. India has suffered on account of terrorism in Kashmir and Punjab as well as faced the brunt of the religious fundamentalists as a Secular and Democratic nation. Pakistan that is now an apparently developing democracy has to face terrorism and religious fundamentalism which is not easy to tackle. There have to be the greatest diplomatic restraints to be exercised from either sides and hawkish provocations need to be ignored. Then alone is trust and amity possible.

thor | 10 years ago | Reply

@excalibur: yah OBL was found in UAE,brought to Abottabad for US.

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