More than two years after a raid by US forces on Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad, Arab TV channel Al Jazeera on Monday released a leaked report by the subsequent Pakistani commission formed to probe the matter.
The independent commission’s report, which had been formally handed over to the government earlier in the year, had not been released to the public.
It bore a scathing assessment of the Pakistani government and the security structures.
Perhaps aware of the implications of its findings, the Commission notes that it had “apprehensions that the Commission’s report would be ignored, or even suppressed”, and urged the government to release it to the public.
The government, however, did not do so. The report was buried by the government and never made public, until Al Jazeera got hold of it and released it online.
Findings of the Report
The Commission’s 336 page report is scathing, holding both the government and the military responsible for ‘gross incompetence’, leading to ‘collective failures’ that allowed Bin Laden to escape detection, and the United States to perpetrate ‘an act of war’.
The Commission was charged with establishing whether the failures of the government and military were due to incompetence, or complicity. It was given overarching investigative powers, and, in the course of its inquiry, interviewed more than 201 witnesses – including members of Bin Laden’s own family, the chief of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, and other senior provincial, federal and military officials.
It also notes that the government’s intention in conducting the inquiry was likely aimed at ‘regime continuance, when the regime is desperate to distance itself from any responsibility for the national disaster that occurred on its watch’ and was likely to be ‘a reluctant response to an overwhelming public and parliamentary demand’.
The Commission found that there had been a complete collapse of governance and law enforcement – a situation it termed ‘Government Implosion Syndrome’, both in the lack of intelligence on Bin Laden’s nine-year residence in Pakistan, and in the response to the US raid that killed him. It finds that ‘culpable negligence and incompetence at almost all levels of government can more or less be conclusively established’.
On the presence of a CIA network in Pakistan tracking down Bin Laden, without the Pakistani establishment’s knowledge, the Commission finds “this [was] a case of nothing less than a collective and sustained dereliction of duty by the political, military and intelligence leadership of the country”.
It also states that the US violation of Pakistani sovereignty, in carrying out the raid unilaterally, had been allowed to happen due to inaccurate and outdated threat assessments within the country’s defence and strategic policy establishments.
“It is official or unofficial defence policy not to attempt to defend the country if threatened, or even attacked by a military superpower like the US?” the Commission asks of several top military officers.
“From a Pakistani strategic doctrine point of view,” the report notes, while issuing findings on how the military had wholly focused its “peacetime deployment” of defence capabilities on the border with India, “the world stood still for almost a decade.”
The report states that “the inability to spot the low flying helicopters over Abbottabad cantonment was a major failure.”
The report reads that “no apparent attempt to take him alive was made. Four Pakistani citizens were also killed without any attempt to disarm or detain them. None apparently put up any resistance or fired at the raiders. The US raid was not a capture or kill mission. It was a kill mission.”
Finally, through testimony from Bin Laden’s family and intelligence officials, it provides a fascinating, and richly detailed, account of Bin Laden’s time in Pakistan: his movements, his habits and his pattern of life.
In concluding its report, the Commission finds that the country’s “political, military intelligence and bureaucratic leadership cannot be absolved of their responsibility for the state of governance, policy planning and policy implementation that eventually rendered this national failure almost inevitable”, and calls on the country’s leadership to formally apologise to the people of Pakistan for “their dereliction of duty”.
US special forces launched a raid deep into Pakistani territory on May 1, 2011 to capture or kill al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. US soldiers flew via helicopter to the Pakistani army garrison town of Abbottabad on US President Barack Obama, where he was hiding according to their intelligence. In the subsequent raid, Bin Laden and four others were killed, whilst several were wounded.
Following the operation, that had been deliberately conducted without the knowledge of the Pakistani government or its military, a commission was set up in Pakistan to examine “how the US was able to execute a hostile military mission, which lasted around three hours, deep inside Pakistan”, and how Pakistan’s “intelligence establishment apparently had no idea that an international fugitive of the renown or notoriety of [Osama bin Laden] was residing in [Abbottabad],” the report says.
Page 197 of the report, which contains part of the testimony of Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, then director of the ISI, was missing from all copies of the report that Al Jazeera obtained from multiple sources, the news channel stated.
The report also stated that President Asif Zardari, then prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and Army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani did not record their statements before the commission.
It is unclear what was contained on that page, but the contextual implication is that, among other things, it contains a list of seven demands made by the United States to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in 2001.