ISLAMABAD: The judicial commission investigating how Osama bin Laden lived in Pakistan undetected for years until his killing by US special forces said on Thursday it would complete its report within weeks.
“It is hoped that the recording of the evidence will be completed by the end of December and the writing of the commission report as early as possible,” retired senior supreme court judge Javed Iqbal told a news conference.
The Pakistani government set up the five-member panel after US Navy SEALs conducted a secret raid on a compound in the garrison city of Abbottabad on May 2, killing bin Laden and flying off without informing Islamabad.
Parliament demanded an independent investigation into how bin Laden had been able to hide and whether there was any government or military collusion.
Iqbal said the commission would like to examine evidence collected by US Navy SEALs from compound, but that it had not so far made a formal request.
“So far as that evidence is concerned, that is in Arabic language and according to the Unites States authorities it may take more than six months to get it translated into English or some other language,” Iqbal said.
“Therefore it is time consuming and when the relevant time will come definitely we will ask for such information.”
Pakistani-US ties drastically deteriorated over the bin Laden raid, which prompted accusations of incompetence or complicity against the military, and relations are again at new lows over the November NATO killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers.
Iqbal said the commission had interviewed more than 100 witnesses, including army and air force, police and intelligence officials, and visited Abbottabad and the surrounding areas five times.
“We strongly recommend that the commission’s report be made public,” Iqbal told the crowded gathering, the commission’s first such news conference.
Pakistan was awash with conspiracy theories after the Abbottabad incident and in a slightly surprising move, Iqbal said it was too early to comment when asked whether the commission was sure bin Laden was killed in the May 2 raid.
“It would be too premature a stage to say what was and what was not, because the objective is to minutely examine the evidences collected so far, then a conclusion would be drawn and deliberations would take place,” he said.
“And some important witnesses have to be examined yet, so please do not ask what will be in this report.”
Iqbal said the team was investigating whether bin Laden stayed only in Abbottabad or also elsewhere in Pakistan and looking at whether his killing was lawful under international law.
“As far as the international law is concerned, it is obvious that if he was present there, he should have been caught alive,” Iqbal said.
“But the thing is that why it happened like that, should it have happened like this, all these answers you will find in the report that what international law says and what was our stance and what is the US stand.”
He reiterated that bin Laden’s widows and children were now free to leave the country as far as the commission was concerned, saying that they had been “thoroughly investigated” and their statements were recorded.