Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
Pakistan : four probes and a killing
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 warned 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.