Yesterday, on 7th May 2011, President Zardari, PM Gilani and COAS Ashfaq Kayani met for the second time at the Presidency since Osama’s operation in Abbotabad and comprehensively reviewed the situation in the perspective of Pakistan’s national security and foreign policy. They decided that the PM would take the nation into confidence through parliament and give a policy statement in the next parliamentary session. The three high ups held this meeting in the backdrop of pressure from the international community on the government to shed light on Osama’s hiding near military academy, besides demands from within the country for resignations of four responsible heads. Ch Nisar Ali Khan of the PML(N) and PPP’s former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had also joined this orchestra.
The key intelligence agency of Pakistan admitted their failure that this lack of knowledge brought embarrassment for them. One of the ISI officers had told the media that a 12 year daughter of Osama was taken under custody who had seen US troops shooting her father to death. There were 17 or 18 people present in compound at the time of US raid. A US chopper crashed amid operation otherwise US marine commandos would have taken all people back to America. The Abbotabad compound was not on army’s radar and that the ISI had raided this compound once in 2003 when it was under construction. Then the ISI believed that an al-Qaeda operative, Abu Faraj al-Libi, was there.
Pakistan’s Ministry of foreign Affairs issued a statement that no base within Pakistan was used by US forces. The US helicopters entered Pakistani airspace making use of blind spots in the radar coverage due to hilly terrain. However, as far as the target compound was concerned, ISI had been sharing information with CIA and other friendly intelligence agencies since 2009. The statement needed army’s verification because the subsequent information was found contrary to that stance, vehemently denied by the PAF’s Chief.
The US invasion piled up embarrassment on the political and military leadership and the nation kept on demanding answers to the disturbing questions about the said operation. The government came up with different statements through the Foreign Office and the Federal Information Minister over the issue leaving a number of key questions unanswered.
In this scenario an ISPR release of 5th May 2011 after corps commanders’ conference was considered ‘cheat’ by the intelligentsia in which the Pakistan army had openly admitted their shortcomings in developing intelligence on Osama’s presence in Pakistan against their tall claims ‘of extraordinary achievement’ all around. The commanders feel betrayed by the CIA for not telling the ISI where Bin Laden was hiding. The release remained silent on army’s failure to detect US helicopters in our territory doing operation for about an hour.
Pakistan’s Air Chief, Rao Suleman Qamar, next day told that their radars were not jammed; in fact they were not switched on for western borders due to obvious reasons of ‘zero threat’ from that side raising another potent question that why they were not ‘needed’ in the drone-infested part of Pakistan. It was courageous step by the PAF to explain why it had failed to detect the US helicopters used in the said operation. The high-level radars along Pakistan’s western border had been inactive on the day in question, given that the country was not expecting any aerial threat from Afghanistan. Air Commodore Tariq Yazdani had also confirmed that the air surveillance system had neither been jammed nor had it been inactive.
On Pakistan’s intelligence failures in knowing Osama’s whereabouts; according to his widow, he and his family left the tribal areas in 2003 to live in Chak Shah Mohammad, a settled area on the highway to Abbottabad, from which place they moved in 2005. This means that Pakistan’s security and intelligence forces somehow failed to take note of the presence of the world’s most wanted man in their backyard for over half a decade. Afghanistan’s former intelligence chief, Amrullah Saleh had once suspected that Osama had been hiding in Pakistan’s settled areas but Gen Musharraf had refused to entertain the idea. These revelations were not just embarrassing; they also raised serious doubts about Pakistan’s top defence and security establishment being hailed for its effectiveness and professionalism.
In 5th May 2011’s corps commander’s meeting, the army chief ordered an investigation into the intelligence failures that led to Osama’s undetected presence, and why US personnel were able to enter Pakistani territory without notice. To some extent it would be helpful to tone down the doubts of Pakistanis. Their faith in the effectiveness of their security establishment stands badly shaken. An inquiry was demanded not only into the intelligence failures but also the gaps in the defence and security system because a huge percentage of GDP is being eaten by the defence budget without any public information on costs.
In the words of Babar Sattar (referring to the ‘Dawn’ of 7th May 2011) that ‘an inquiry into the facts of the Osama operation to determine the causes of the intelligence failure will not be sufficient. We need to rationally approach the concept of sovereignty together with state responsibility to understand why the world views us suspiciously. We need a thorough re-examination of our existing national security doctrine to determine whether it is promoting or jeopardising our security. We need disclosure on the scope of our military relationship with the US and if the latter has been afforded air bases and the permission to house troops or intelligence operatives within Pakistan.’
One probability suggested that there has been working two parallel factions in Pakistan army and especially in the ISI. One faction with pure national interest just to think for Pakistan and COAS Gen Kayani would be leading them. The other faction, continuously through since two decades, seeking enlightenment from ex ISI Chief Gen Hamid Gul, encouraged Taliban’s movement and activities in Afghanistan. Gen Zaheerul-Islam, Gen Aziz and partly Gen Mahmud of the then ISI were their silent supporters. From Generals down to ranks, the two philosophies went parallel but equally compelling, effective and strong enough. Thus it is unlikely that Osama was being hosted by Pakistan as a matter of policy. Shielding Afghan Taliban leaders, however misconceived, remained tolerable and understandable as part of a twisted approach to promote our defined strategic interests. Osama, as a person, did not figure anywhere in it.
The supposition that our military and the ISI must have information on Osama’s presence in Abbottabad is merely a myth. The nation spends billions on their nurture in the name of security and not for spying or ‘persuading’ the politicians. ISI’s fear for certain ‘high ups’ being chased & followed, taped, photographed, interrogated and coerced had falsely created an impression among the nation that they are ‘hawks’ which in Osama’s case proved to be at 180 angle otherwise. Without distorting history no one honestly admired Pakistan’s military high command’s performance in any war. Pakistan has lost more civilians and soldiers to terror since 9/11 than all other countries of the world put together. Pakistan’s military and its intelligence network never worked out the threat radiated through their own factions striving to bring ‘Islamic’ government in Afghanistan at the cost of 35000 civilian and 5000 army officers and men dead amidst associated disturbances and atrocities in their own country; what a nationalism.
The people of Pakistan are simple. So simple that they were not able enough to grasp that if their ISI or MI were real hawks then why there were successful attacks on their SSG battalion near Tarbela; why there was an attack on GHQ Rawalpindi; why their 200 jawans were once taken hostages in the tribal areas; why there prevailed a state of insurgency in Swat for about two years; why a bus full of Army officers was blown in R A Bazar Rawalpindi; why there was an attack on a mosque in Rawarpindi Cantt killing about 18 officers during Juma prayers; why there were two attacks on two Navy buses in Karachi just a week back and there are numerous more incidents telling attacks on army posts all over the northern part of Pakistan. Pakistan army and ISI were not able to trace out threats to the above major incidents on their own installations, how one could imagine about Osama’s trace out by them.
Even knowing the above facts, the American authorities pressingly demanded Pakistan to launch an investigation into the supporting network for Osama amidst noting, by their Security Chief in White House, that ‘we haven’t seen evidence that the government knew about that. Despite the fugitive terror chief hiding for years in a three-storey house near the capital Islamabad, I’ve not seen evidence that would tell us that the political, the military, or the intelligence leadership had foreknowledge of bin Laden.’
US President Barack Obama himself had said in his first public comments on the issue that Osama had a support network in Pakistan but not clear if the Pakistani government was involved. Obama told the CBS show ‘60 Minutes’ that ‘we think that there had to be some sort of support network for bin Laden inside of Pakistan, “But we don’t know who or what that support network was. We don’t know whether there might have been some people inside of government, people outside of government, and that’s something that we have to investigate and, more importantly, the Pakistani government has to investigate.’
As per White House and CIA version the data gathered from the raid was the richest terrorism treasure trove ever collected, the largest reserve of intelligence derived from the scene of any single terrorist and about the size of a small college library. Naturally, if the US developed any information about planning or imminent threats they would act on that. Mr Donilon of White House cautioned ‘we can’t declare al-Qaeda strategically defeated, they continue to be a threat to the United States, absolutely critical for us to remain vigilant as we continue to press this organization. Killing bin Laden was ‘a real blow.’
On the home front, Munawar Hassan, Amir of JI continuously urged, on TV and other media organs, that ‘Pakistan Army earned disgrace and humiliation by the US operation in Abbattabad. The nation should reject those who exhibited negligence in the (Abbottabad) operation. He was of the opinion that the likes of Osama would keep on coming to this world until and unless unjust and discriminate attitude of the US and West would not change. He said that ‘Osama was not just an individual; he was a symbol ….. more Osamas will be born from each and every drop of his blood, and the Abbottabad operation exposed the inefficiency of the institutions.’ Amir Jamat-ut-Dawa, Hafiz Saeed also said that the rulers were standing with the US with their heads hanging low out of dishonour. Pakistan should admit its mistake of having entered into strategic partnership with the US and revisit the relationship between the two countries.
In short, during this episode, the religious parties kept on calling the people to come out on roads for protests against American and Pakistani governments. There were processions and protests in various Pakistani cities including Karachi raising slogans of Jihad against the foreign power that had entered Pakistan without permission. Forgetting the facts that Osama had also entered Pakistan without permission, without visa, was also living here without notice was equally damaging for Pakistan. He was a Saudi national by origin and not a Pakistani. Due to his philosophy, his network named Al Qaida and due to his presence there, Pakistan had continuously suffered for about ten years. Pakistan had lost more than 35000 civilian lives mostly innocent women and children, 5000 of their army officers and men, sustained a loss of more than $67 billion infrastructure, lost about $37 billion’s business and industry, earned dissociation and hatred from whole of the world on this account even from Afghanistan for whom our Generals and political leaders bought poverty and embarrassment for Pakistan and much more intangible losses. In short Pakistan was pushed forty years back, of course, with lust and greed of our political leaders for dollars in the name of aid and loans.
Contradictory statements regarding working of radars and surveillance system vis a vis the technology used by US forces on 2nd May have jolted the nation. The detailed future plans are to be chalked out because various political parties themselves have started emphasising that the sole criterion for formulating our stance should be focussed on safeguarding of Pakistan’s supreme national interest by all means, by all state institutions, in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Pakistan, who above all value their dignity and honour. A high level independent enquiry by high stature retired judges is the urgent need.
Gone is gone. Pakistan army and government both failed. If the people are to come out on roads, OK, but with this determination that the political elite should immediately abandon begging loans and aids from America, IMF, World Bank and other consortiums. All these loans and aids are taken in the name of people’s projects or army’s needs but make Generals and politicians personal accounts baggy and bulky. When Pakistan will refuse and discard dollars, America will automatically be out and away.
Let the people live at their own, may be poor but gracefully, they would be better off.
Tags: Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda, Asif Zardari, Benazir Bhutto, Democracy, General Zia-ul-Haq, ISI, Military Establishment, Osama Bin Laden, Taliban & TTP, Terrorism, War on Terror