IT was, perhaps, inevitable: a high-profile report on a hugely damaging, and embarrassing, episode in the country’s history was unlikely to remain shrouded in secrecy forever. After this newspaper reported on some of the Abbottabad Commission’s findings and recommendations yesterday, Al Jazeera published the report last evening — and the report appears to pack quite a punch. Did it have to turn out this way, though? Where once the Hamoodur Rehman Commission’s report on the events leading up to the secession of East Pakistan could be suppressed for decades, today there is no such luxury. In the era of WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers who can use the global megaphone of a semi-regulated internet, the age of excessive secrecy and the suppression of information that is of legitimate public interest has passed. Indeed, the Hamoodur Rehman Commission’s ultimate fate underlined the changing times — when an Indian publication began to serialise extracts from the report, Pakistani authorities were forced to do what they long avoided, ie publish the report.

Why was the Abbottabad Commission report, handed over to prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf in January, not made public? It is fair assumption that responsibility for the secrecy lay with the military leadership. An institutional culture that focuses more on the embarrassment that will be caused nationally and internationally by a comprehensive official account of any episode that is deemed to undermine national security ends up compounding the original errors. Whether it is Ojhri camp or Kargil or militant attacks on military bases in recent years, the approach is always the same: spill no secrets and promise that the necessary corrective measures have been taken, with no proof of whether that is the case or not. A high-stakes version of ‘trust us, guys’. But ‘trust us, guys’ has only led to bigger mistakes and the fact that Osama bin Laden spent years in Pakistan undetected and that US troops were able to kill him on Pakistani soil and leave undetected is surely one of the more staggering national-security lapses in the country’s history.

Now that the report is out and will be pored over nationally and internationally, there is still time for the government, and the army leadership in particular, to get at least one thing right. A leaked report cannot be the basis of accountability or any prosecutions deemed necessary. The government must — yes, must — officially release the report. Only then can the official narrative begin to be set right.

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Comments (16)

July 9, 2013 6:19 am

Okay now since the report is out - we should focus on locating other AlQaeda elements like the Egyptian cleric now heading alqaeda. We should also bring to light the Ohjri camp incident. And above all the famous discussion in the parliament about Ahmaddiya community. We avoid truth in this country and here we are suffering the malaise of an honorable nation

dr vimal raina
July 9, 2013 8:46 am

Let us have a commission on how this report leaked.

July 9, 2013 9:45 am

It has taken sixty seven years for Pakistan to arrive at a position where a national newspaper is able to editorialise on monumental failures of the government and state institutions. This reader fully endorses it and the nation most definitely will agree with the following:

"A leaked report cannot be the basis of accountability or any prosecutions deemed necessary. The government must — yes, must — officially release the report. Only then can the official narrative begin to be set right."

The government of Pakistan MUST officially release this report! Dawn has done a huge service to the nation despite the pain, the angst and the humiliation the report has caused.

a pakistani
July 9, 2013 10:26 am

No responsibility fixed. Money and time of nation wasted.

waseem haider
July 9, 2013 11:36 am

Prior to Abbotabad episode in which American Navy seals killed OBL, we had very high thoughts about the security opratus of Pakistan specially ISI. We as a Pakistani nation were confident that our defence forces were equal to any danger posed to our dear homeland but how American Navy seals intruded into our terrritory undected after completing their three hours long opration returned succssfully jolted us badely. All the high hopes regarding our defence capabilities dashed to the ground at once and we left with the gross feeling that we are merely a pupet for the "sole superpower of the World". I think now its the golden oppurtunity to come up with the facts of report and prepare ourselves in the best way for future by identifying our lope holes, setting up our priorties in the best national interest.

Mohammad Rafique
July 9, 2013 1:10 pm

The phenomenon of secrecy is evolving out of box.Either, out of necessity or as measure of course correction.Anyways, the beginning is promising to unravel facts unduly suppressed from nation.Democracy is gearing up in Pakistan hope democratic representative shall not repeat unholy practices of dictators by keeping the nation at dark from rightful information.

fierdoous ali muntaziri
July 9, 2013 1:26 pm

It is the more regrettable for whole the nation that the world,s high profile terrorist had been living in Pakistani for 9 years.Pakistan,s image was already taint across the globe,it more added the intensity after the killing of Osama Bin laden in Abbotabad. Its our bad luck that commissions are made after the incidents,and its real findings and weakness of the concerned authority have not been unveiled,whether it might be Hamodure Rehman,s Commission,Ojari Camp incident,or Memogate scandal,the whole nation have been kept unaware. It right to say truth has some thorns but its lasting impact is fair and positive.So keep truth continue sothat such type of incidents can be avoided.

July 9, 2013 3:36 pm

When the government, the establishment in fact the whole shakey structure of the country is based on denial then we should not be surprised at such results.

July 9, 2013 5:18 pm

@Tariq: You've hit the nail on the head! Imcompetent Army, Incompetent Cilvil Government. The problem is that the only way pakistani parties know how to govern is badly (65 years of it) ALL OF THEM...

Banana Republic...

Laughable nation.

July 9, 2013 5:47 pm

If general Kiani a some dignity then he should resign.

July 9, 2013 7:08 pm

In a nutshell this is what the report says: No one is to blame. Everyone is to blame. And if everyone is to blame then where lies the guilt?

V. C. Bhutani
July 9, 2013 9:38 pm

You may be right in saying that the Abbottabad Commission Report should be published formally by the Pakistan government. However, both within Pakistan and internationally the report will be read and appropriate conclusions shall be drawn. In my view, what the report does not appear to say is that Pakistan’s political leaders and army would have known about OBL’s presence in Pakistan for several years. Saying that would amount to sheer damnation. Hence, the report launched an elaborate explanation that Pakistan government and army and other authorities were so colossally incompetent. Perhaps the charge of incompetence was not so serious as the charge of complicity. I refuse to believe that Pakistan army did not know that OBL was living within a short distance of a military academy. QED. V. C. Bhutani, Edinburgh, 9 Jul 2013, 1741 GMT

July 9, 2013 11:14 pm

So for 9 years who was fooling whom? And what were the consequences? Army Gen n then President Musharaf earlier and now Pasha the ex ISI head has agreed to knowing the fact that drones were allowed to take off from the country to kill its own people. The army fails to intercept a foreign ground forces to land inside the country and conduct an operation for three hours, the ISI is busy looking away. If the nations defence forces and intelligence agency are part of treason against the country then what is the punishment and who will be held responsible.

(Dr.) B.N. Anand
July 9, 2013 11:36 pm

@Tariq: Tariq Saheb, that is what we had always been saying that Pakistan is living in denial which you now also say. So when Pakistan always denied about any knowledge of Osma bin Laden living there, and now when it was otherwise, no greater proof is required about such conclusions. BNA

Dr. D. Prithipaul
July 10, 2013 12:38 am

Transparency will always have to yield to the imperative of duplicity as the natural way of Pakistan to do business, especially in its diplomacy. e.g. Embrace the PM of India with a bhai-bhai hot balloon of effusive clichés and at the same time initiate secretly the Kargil game. Does the report refer to the fine art of duplicity in Pakistani foreign affairs?

July 10, 2013 5:38 am

Pakistan is a country where a) the military demands that it needs special consideration due to all the sacrifices made, b) the politicians are willing to provide the military whatever figleaf it demands just to keep their own positions safe, c) the people do not want to hear anything bad about the military and are eager to hear everything bad about the politicians d) the military wants the people to think they will protect Islamic militants and thereby protect Islam, even as they take money from the US and Nato to control the militants. All these agendas have to be met - thus making any report useless, and followup prosecutions unimaginable.

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