Perfectly in keeping with our especial penchant of always attempting to cover up the truth; to mitti pao Sirji, mitti pao; to shove every distasteful thing under that humongous and most filthy carpet that we maintain with a diligence that would astound the world itself, the witnesses who appeared before the Abbottabad Commission have proved themselves.
Whilst the first 79 pages of the Report suggest it to be a thorough, intelligent and a brave effort at trying to get to the truth of the US raid on a house in Abbottabad Cantonment on the night of May 1st and 2nd, 2011 in which the terrorist Osama bin Laden (OBL), his son, his two minders and the wife of one of them were killed, I will this week only comment on what I have read thoroughly so far.
It is, indeed, important that the Report be taken apart surgically and loudmouths (no need to name them for we know who they are!) who have so far gotten away with — metaphorically speaking, of course — murders are punished so that our country never has to go through such an embarrassment ever again.
It is also extremely disingenuous, nay foolishly dishonest, to shovel all the blame on to the Commando now that he is safely in jug: blaming the Abbottabad disgrace on him for acquiescing to American demands to join the fight in the first place. Another, a former Brigadier castigated the Commando on TV just the other day for causing the Abbottabad debacle by commandeering most of the “150 to 200” ISI operatives to keep an eye on his political opponents! 150 to 200?
Why are we so surprised at the American action when we were told in no uncertain manner by none other than (as the Report says too) President Obama himself that the US would take “unilateral action to take out high value targets” if they had to.
So, the Americans came, got their man — though why the Commission terms his killing as “reported” in Chapter 1, page 16, while at every other mention of him or his body it accepts that he was killed that night, escapes me — and got clean away, losing a Black Hawk and blowing it up; blasting several doors in the house and generally making a lot of noise for a whole 35 minutes, maybe more, a mere kilometre away from the main gate of the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA).
The Quick Reactionary Forces (QRFs) of both the famed Frontier Force Regiment and of the PMA, where future brass hats are manufactured, weren’t that quick were they, arriving on the scene much after the Americans were well away and almost approaching their refuelling stop at Kala Dhaka. Of course, when the coast was clear, everyone and Charlie’s aunt “rushed” (my word here, which the late Ardeshir Cowasjee forever used about DCs and SPs “rushing” hither and yon after the event!) to OBL’s, oh well all right, “compound”.
Here and now let me say that the Report quite clearly and unabashedly concludes that the police, when they did arrive, were not let anywhere near the house but kept well away to form an outer cordon, which I can only think would be no less than several hundred feet away from the scene of occurrence.
It is all a case of many Inspector Jacque Clouseau’s — yes him of the Pink Panther series played so brilliantly by Peter Sellers — every sleuth with two left feet and three thumbs. How in heaven’s name did they not pick up on the whale-sized holes in the stories spun by Maryam and Bushra, the wives of OBL’s minders, and Umar Patek, the Indonesian terrorist, tied to the Bali bombings?
There were other Clouseau’s (with apologies to Peter Sellers): how in God’s name did a structure as humongous as OBL’s come up in Cantonment limits where designs and architectural drawings of proposed buildings are gone through with a fine-toothed comb? And quite suddenly, a third storey appears, and high walls with razor wire? And, er, no one from the Cantonment authorities noticed?
Really! The army’s own inquiry had the effrontery to remark: “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.” Last heard, the police do not have building inspectors in their ranks! Ludicrous.
And then there is the curious case of OBL’s neighbour, Major Amir Aziz, who first refused to turn up, was forced to and then spun a most curious tale. Due to paucity of space, let me just take his evidence about one Lt Col Saeed Iqbal and his bulletproof “noise-controlled vehicle”, which the Major estimates cost the Colonel Rs30 million. What pray, is a “noise-controlled” vehicle?
Apparently, the Colonel came to the Major’s house, climbed onto his roof and photographed his “pets”? What “pets” does the Major own that could only be photographed from the roof? The Major also reports that he is not sure if the Colonel took pictures of OBL’s house.
We are fed another nugget here: that the Colonel’s son was the Commando’s ADC (he does not tell us his Service: army, navy or air force) and is now serving as a private secretary to him. Moreover, the Colonel runs a security business, which employs a lot of ISI ex-servicemen. We are also told that the Colonel soon after disappeared abroad after trying to, or selling his properties in this country.
In the end, kudos to the Commission for “insisting” that the Report be published without delay, both in English and Urdu, so this country could avoid such a situation again. And shame on the PPP government for not doing so for well on seven months.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2013.