Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Pakistan : four probes and a killing

Pakistan : four probes and a killing
MAY 18, 2011 17:24 BST

Pakistan has launched four separate investigations into the life and death of Osama bin Laden on its soil, according to U.S. Senator John Kerry. The army, the air force and the intelligence establishment are running a probe each while parliament last week ordered an investigation by an independent commission to be set up for the purpose.

It’s not entirely clear who is investigating what but a common theme running through the probes is to find out how did the United States launch a heliborne operation so deep in the country, hunt bin Laden down in his compound after a shootout in the outer wing and fly away with his corpse, without the knowledge of the Pakistani authorities. Indeed the military and the government only got to know about it after the Americans told them once they were safely out of Pakistani airspace.

It’s, doubtless, a serious breach of Pakistan’s air and ground defences and the biggest worry for the nation’s security planners would be ensure that its eastern borders are secure, lest it gives bitter foe India any ideas of mounting an incursion of its own. It is also a failure of the intelligence agencies they didn’t know it was coming, or indeed what had happened until they were informed by the Americans. All that will be the subject of the parallel investigations.

But what about the other question that people inside Pakistan as well abroad are asking : how is it that bin Laden came to live in a town buzzing with military officers, serving and retired, and not far from the nation’s premier military academy without anyone finding out. The world’s most hunted man is found to be living not in caves in the mountains of the northwest region straddling Afghanistan, but in relative comfort in a military town, barely two hour’s drive from the office of the country’s intelligence agency. Shouldn’t that be a question the nation must ask its security establishment ? Indeed, avoiding the issue would only put the security agencies under a greater cloud of suspicion, as Pakistani commentators themselves are saying, not to mention their rather aggressive American interlocutors.

Badar Alam, the editor of the monthly magazine Herald. said it was revealing that the unanimous resolution that parliament passed in setting up a commission to probe the incident in Abbottabad had little reference to bin Laden and the militant Islamist groups that threaten not just other countries, but Pakistan itself. Indeed, contrary to worries that parliament would use the opportunity presented by the security agencies’ discomfiture to crack open the steel curtain and reveal their functioning, it seemed to have narrowed down the focus of the investigation to the U.S. violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, he wrote in a piece for Dawn.

”Going by the tone, tenor and the text of the joint resolution, it is more than obvious that the investigators will be strictly focused on the American invasion into Pakistan, not on how bin Laden could live in Abbottabad undetected and whether there is any truth in unceasing reports about Pakistan army and intelligence agencies secretly collaborating with terrorists.”

Alam said members of parliament seemed more focussed on asking the military whether they could shoot down U.S. drone aircraft that had routinely violated the country’s air space particuarly over the northwest. For all you know, the military might come out of this stronger with the politicians opening the purse strings further so they can buy expoensive equipment to better handle such incursions.

As Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council in Washington, said the truth is that there were many in Pakistan “angrier about the United States’ ability to launch a special-operations raid right under their noses than they are that bin Laden was found on their soil-and the military is bearing the brunt of the criticism inside Pakistan.” He warns that the more America puts pressure on the Pakistan military, already smarting under the humilitation of the raid, the more it risks losing it as a partner.

MAY 18, 2011
9:28 PM BST
If Bin Laden had moved into that Abbotabad compound just two weeks earlier before the attack, there could be some semblance of belief that he sneaked in without anyone knowing about it. The problem is this – the US has been watching his place for over a year. Bin Laden had 16 children in that compound. For how long these children could have stayed inside the compound doing nothing and not venturing outside. Children would go insane. They would have had illness, infection and what not, which would have required medical attention. Who was paying the utility bills? If the Americans can get curious about a compound that stood out in the neighborhood, how come no one in Pakistan’s famous intelligence unit did not sniff anything?

It is all window dressing. Pakistan’s inquiry committees are simply an eyewash. They will keep dancing around it until the next big news replaces the old one. Mumbai attack investigations have dissipated away. Most do not even remember it now. So Pakistan will run some fake investigation to kill time until the next issue arises.

The truth is out – Pakistan hid Bin Laden, Mullar Omar, Zawahiri and many prominent criminals hoping to wait out the Americans. That the Americans did not entirely rely on them and took their own action is the only surprise element here. They had underestimated the US and have believed that they are gullible. No matter how much they can hide the embarrassment of being caught red handed, the truth remains. Pakistan’s military and the ISI have been the foundation of global Islamic terrorism. They have only pretended to be working with the world. They know that the elements they have created have started hurting their own people. But they do not care. Their soldiers are expendable. Their people are expendable. They remain.

I’d like to see Mullah Omar hunted down the same way, without relying on Pakistan, inside Pakistan, again by the US. At that point, Pakistan will face its moment of truth.

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