OBL report: Brave, Bold & Credible

Of the 36 questions raised by the Commission, more than 27 dealt with issues related to security.

Nasim Zehra July 14, 2013
The writer is a senior anchor at Capital TV and a fellow at Harvard University Asia Centre. She tweets @NasimZehra

The news that the government will inquire into how the Abbottabad Commission Report was leaked and private conversations with those who read the report when it was submitted to the last government, conclusively establishes its authenticity.  The protestations about its leaks are unworthy of attention. To the authors, our gratitude for producing a brave, bold and credible document, while a milder thank you to Al Jazeera, which in its professional competitiveness, trashed the PPP and the caretaker government’s decision not to make the report public. Ironically, the fear of public opinion has always haunted the powerful after committing costly, often even deadly blunders. Fortunately, we in Pakistan are now in the midst of attempting, through public debates, to alter this so that the fear strikes them before they commit such blunders. What also helps is that since the bitter yield of past blunders now haunts us at our very core, there is zero margin of error available to those in power.

Piling up of unacknowledged blunders, especially in security matters, has been Pakistan’s hallmark. In most cases, official efforts made to study the causes of these debacles never actually served the principal purpose of revisiting a blunder and avoiding similar future blunders. For the sake of political expediency so as not to ruffle the feathers of those in Pakistan’s power institutions, most inquiries were never made public.  Hence, the debate on root causes of security blunders, without officially certified evidence, was always bracketed as one conducted by anti-Pakistan, anti-army, etc. individuals and groups.

By contrast, blunders committed by elected leaders are all openly discussed. The consequence of the perpetual accountability of civilian blundering is that today, on the political front, Pakistan is on an irreversible democratic path. Pakistan, now a textbook case of how to transition from military dictatorships and blundering elected governments to more accountable democratic ones, is past the point of systemic structural crisis on the political front.

At this hopeful political juncture, the report is a very positive development because it provides an opportunity to address the systemic and chronic problems that exist in Pakistan’s security institutions as well as the weaknesses that exist within the civilian set-up that contribute to accentuating these problems. The primary mandate of the Commission was to honestly reconstruct the events of May 2, 2011 and to detail the weaknesses of our institutions that led to a situation in which key state institutions were found in a “resting” mode when Pakistan’s territory was invaded. In the Commission’s words “it has sought the fullest and most accurate possible account of the events surrounding May 2, 2011, to draw lessons and make recommendations to ensure that May 2, 2011 like incidents do not recur”. Accordingly, of the 36 questions raised by the Commission, more than 27 dealt with issues related to security. Also, equally important were the two questions related to the responsibility of the country’s highest elected offices to hold those institutions accountable on the OBL issue. As the report concludes, clearly the civilian leadership had abdicated its responsibility as well.

The conclusion of the Commission is that “finally no honest assessment of this situation can escape the conclusion that those individuals who wielded primary authority and influence in national decision making bear the primary responsibility for creating the national circumstances and environment in which the May 2, 2011 incident occurred. It is unnecessary to specifically name them because it is obvious who they are.” The report has now become an incontrovertible part of Pakistan’s history, outlining the gross incompetence of key security institutions and the elected political leadership in handling the OBL case. Pakistan’s involvement in it was not only by virtue of having agreed to help the US in hunting down key al Qaeda men, but also because of the killing fields Pakistan was fast becoming with the growing nexus between al Qaeda, the Taliban, the TTP and the sectarian militants. It is now time to reform Pakistan’s security system, the responsibility of which rests with the elected prime minister of Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2013.

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