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Osama raid a wake-up call: report

Published Jul 10, 2013 07:07am


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Osama bin Laden. — File Photo by AP
Osama bin Laden. — File Photo by AP

ISLAMABAD: The Abbottabad Commission has called for strengthening democratic control of state institutions and civilian oversight over so far unaccountable security and intelligence agencies if a national embarrassment like the one caused by the US raid of May 2, 2011, is to be avoided.

The commission, in the penultimate chapter of the 336-page report, made 32 wide ranging recommendations to address the issues identified during the course of its investigations and testimonies by key civilian and military functionaries. But strikingly, its suggestions repeatedly bemoaned “military hegemony” and emphasised on strengthening democracy.

Further intriguingly, the report comes at a time when rumours of cleavages between the newly elected government and the military establishment over the security situation in Balochistan are swirling around.

While it is said that the commission concluded that it was a collective failure at all levels of the government and a series of incidents of negligence and poor policy culminated in the May 2 incident, the report appeared to be quite categorical about whom it found to be responsible as it noted: “The failure was primarily an intelligence-security failure that was rooted in political irresponsibility and military exercise of authority and influence in policy and administrative areas for which it neither had constitutional or legal authority, nor the necessary expertise and competence.”

At another point in an oblique reference to the military and its spy agencies, it said systemic failure in the country was a “concrete outcome and product of acts of commission and omission of specific individuals and institutions, who usurp responsibilities that are not theirs”.

There were several references to frequent military interventions as the cause of national woes, and a warning that threat of revival of military’s “green book ideology” persisted despite the army having faded from the political scenario under Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. It further cautioned that without civilian control and democratic rule of law, May 2-like humiliations would continue to revisit the country and at some point threaten its very existence.

The commission was so particular about this core recommendation on civilian control that at one point it observed that “unless the larger picture is addressed specific measures that have been recommended will either not be taken, or if taken, would have negligible effect”.

The solution prescribed was that “all aspects of national policy must be formulated and implemented under representative civilian control, including defence and security policies”.

Addressing the issue of inadequate civilian governance, it said the standards of governance by civilian leaders declined because they were “forcibly displaced, constrained and rendered irrelevant”.

It further said: “The persons that had proper constitutional responsibilities for policy making, administrative and policing duties were in fact even less competent than the military because of effects of an absence of civilian control and participation in national decision making over a very long period.”

But, at the same time the report warned that “farcical democracy” led to “criminal mis-governance” in the democratic control.

It was in this context that in addition to the military’s encroachment on the domain of civilian leadership, the commission also found the then PPP government to be culpable for the systemic failure and hoped that “people of Pakistan in the forthcoming elections would pass a collective judgement”.

CIVILIAN INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES: Appointment of serving or retired military officers during successive army regimes as heads of civilian intelligence outfits, it was found, inhibited their professional and institutional development.

Capacity shortcomings were particularly noticed in cases of the Intelligence Bureau and police -- the two agencies that under a normal situation should have initiated information about the presence of a high value target in any neighbourhood. Since the counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence roles had been arrogated by the ISI to itself and the working of these civilian departments had been crippled by capacity inadequacies, both agencies were able to find an acceptable excuse for themselves.

The commission, therefore, recommended that the IB and police in particular must be properly resourced, trained, granted functional independence and freed from political interference and institutional hegemony of “more powerful and favoured institutions” – an apparent reference to the ISI and MI.

COORDINATION & ACCOUNTABILITY: The commission, while observing an absence of civil-civil and civil-military intelligence coordination mechanisms, proposed establishment of an agency on the lines of the US Department of Homeland Security to synergise the working of at least eight main spy agencies working in the country.

At the same time, it underscored the importance of civilian and parliamentary oversight over the intelligence framework so that the spy agencies do not overstep their mandate.

The report found that well resourced and powerful institutions like the ISI quite often exceeded their mandates, but were never questioned.

“None of the intelligence community, including the premier intelligence organisation which is ISI, have ever been subjected to proper accountability procedures. It is a law of nature that under such circumstances the institutions degenerate and progressively lose competence. This has happened in Pakistan. This will need to be addressed, if the political leadership can summon the will to do so.”

Excessive powers and non-accountability of the intelligence establishment, it added, posed the “greatest threat of state failure to Pakistan”.

MILITARY ARCHITECTURE: The commission regretted that the Joint Staff Headquarters had been reduced to a mere post office due to which it was not delivering the desired results.

The situation, it observed, happened because the army chiefs during military rule remained presidents of the country.

It was, therefore, suggested that a tri-service committee be formed to review the role of the JS Headquarters and recommend measures to the government for restoring its original role.

AGREEMENTS WITH FOREIGN GOVERNMENTS: The commission called for ending all verbal agreements with foreign governments and for recording notes of conversations of top functionaries with foreign leaders.

“The habit of not recording anything is symptomatic of very sick governance... It must cease to be the case in future.”

THREAT ASSESSMENT: The current defence policy was seen by the commission as a reflection of the military’s hegemony over the unwritten national security policy to the exclusion of the civilians.

It pointed out that designating any country as friendly or hostile was not the job of military men, but a prerogative of the elected leadership.

During their testimonies military commanders said they had lowered the guard on the western border, where US forces were present in Afghanistan, for they never expected hostile action from there and had devoted most of their resources to the eastern border, with India.

NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL & ADVISER: The commission proposed establishment of a National Security Council as part of the Prime Minister’s Office to coordinate national security matters and report to the country’s chief executive.

The national security adviser, it said, should head the council’s secretariat.

The council, it further suggested, should be tasked with forming the national security policy.

COUNTER-TERROR POLICY: The government, to the commission’s dismay, had left it to the US to deal with the external terrorist threat, while internally it relied on the ISI for taking care of terrorists inside the country, which, it said, had an “unfortunate history of instrumental and ideological association with militant religious groups”.

The commission called for amending the Anti-Terrorism Act, Qanoon-i-Shahadat (Law of Evidence), Criminal Procedures Code and Pakistan Penal Code for making counter-terrorism strategies effective.

It also stressed on making the National Counter-Terrorism Authority, formed in 2009, functional and referred to reports of the ISI allegedly hindering it from assuming the central role in the fight against terrorism.

Reminding about the criticality of acting against terrorist networks, some of which enjoyed state patronage, the commission said: “A continued lack of commitment and priority in addressing this problem of illegal, violent and parallel governance in support of extremist agendas through acts of terror in the false garb of sacred causes will progressively sink the country. May 2 was a wakeup call. We ignore it at our peril.”

HIGH VALUE TARGETS: Declaring the May 2 raid as an act of war on Pakistan, the commission criticised the US CIA’s refusal to cooperate with Pakistani security agencies as a criminal act of omission.

It said Pakistan reserved the right to stop cooperating with the CIA unless it reviewed its attitude and all high value targets caught in the country should be tried here first instead of simply being handed over to other countries.

US EMBASSY: The commission maintained that the US embassy had prima facie compromised the diplomatic norms and traditions through its activities.

It also mentioned the expansion and reconstruction of the United States chancery in Islamabad, expressing fear that it could pave way for deeper US penetration in Pakistan.

It asked for use of unspecified “official channels” for dealing with the issue instead of leaving it to the unaccountable institutions — military and ISI.

Dismantling the CIA network and terrorist infrastructure in the country must be a national priority, it said.

For further reading:

Culpable negligence, incompetence at all levels of govt’: report

Findings of Abbottabad Commission: How US reached Osama


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Comments (61) Closed

S. Tanwir Hasan Jul 10, 2013 07:28am

This report seems to be well prepared, well reasoned, bold and suggestive of competence of the members of Commission. I am surprised of this report as previously I thought it will just be another crap or report of no value and relevance in the Pakistani scenario. This report is valuable and every suggestion and recommendation of this report should be implemented by this government of Nawaz Sharif in toto.

Viv Jul 10, 2013 07:37am

A terrific and neutral ananlysis.Will do wonders for Pakistan IF IMPLEMENTED.

G.Nabi Jul 10, 2013 07:53am

Collective failure of the government ! Who ran the government for 5 years? On the top, current president,AAZ,with Gilani & Raja Ashraf as 2nd in command respectively. The nation should put them in the dock & hold them accountable.

Haris Chaudhry Jul 10, 2013 08:01am

Not sure at all why the report was so critical of our national security apparatus and our intelligence services. The forces did all they can but apparently due to load-shedding, the radars were out of action and didn't monitor the planes and helicopters flying in and with the change in Gasoline prices notified the night before the operation by OGRA of Rs1/litre reduction, the F16s were to be filled the next morning to resume flying duties. Due to the roadworks around the Abbottabad cantonment area, the infantry units could not reach there on time to interrupt the US operation.

I am also very surprised how on earth are our intelligence agencies are expected to do miracles to detect OBL when there was no name plate with his name on the residence either !

This is just another attempt at maligning our forces by the US-Indo-Judeo-Brit-French-German-Polish-Italian-Azerbaijanian lobby !

Khan Jul 10, 2013 08:52am

Typical Pakistani attitude , blaming the army for everything. The military is the most patriotic institution in the country. The country exists, at least is in this state, because of them. The report is clearly telling people to elect PML-N, some commission.

aisha Jul 10, 2013 09:41am

This report is what perhaps was needed to wake up Pakistan. Military generals have memberships to exclusive clubs. They play golf and have been unmindful of their responsibilities towards this country. Our army lost East Pakistan, lost kargil and yet walk with high noses in front of ordinary civilians. They have been repeatedly embarrassed by America, by drone attacks and by attacks on naval bases. Yet no one seems to learn any lessons.

Adam Jul 10, 2013 09:44am

Pakistan army and civilain Govt should sit together and implement the recommendations given by this commission,only then we could clear up this mess.Army should serve Pakistan rather than working as missionary force for USA.

Sunil Sinha Jul 10, 2013 09:45am

Abottabad Commission issues a wake up call for American strike inside Pakistan, but does not issue, how the most wanted, undetected remained in Pakistan for ten years. How did Osma Bin Laden manage to buy or rent the house? Some one (ISI) definitely knew his presence in Pakistan. The investigation by the commission is half truth, not properly investigated, due to fear of retaliation, leading to cover up.

Mustafa Jul 10, 2013 09:47am

Allowing Osama Bin Laden, the No. 1 fugitive to stay in Pakistan for many years and questioning America for eliminating Osama Bin Laden from Pakistani soil, puts government and people of Pakistan in very embarrassing position in the eyes of international communities.

Bilal Habib Jul 10, 2013 10:09am

Excellent recommendations, but again khaki doesn't cares

Kevin Jul 10, 2013 10:16am

Thanks for sharing the news.

H Khan Jul 10, 2013 12:35pm

This is a load of crap. Put the agencies under our political lot and Pakistan will be gone within a year. The commission ahould have investigated the fact if OB was really there or not.

Gerry D'Cunha Jul 10, 2013 12:58pm

a bunch of hyprocrites in the civilian and military - the country is going to the dogs

Khan Jul 10, 2013 01:16pm

Don't live in fools paradise, the army never waked up after fall of Dhaka. What make people think that they will wakeup after abbotabad raid. I am quoting material from justice hamood ur Rehman commission report and judge by yourself has our defence establishment changed since 1971 "The report accused the generals of what it called a premature surrender and said the military's continued involvement in running the government after 1958 was one reason for the corruption and ineffectiveness of senior officers. 'Even responsible service officers,' the report said, 'have asserted before us that because of corruption resulting from such involvement, the lust for wine and women and greed for lands and houses, a large number of senior army officers, particularly those occupying the highest positions, had lost not only their will to fight but also their professional competence.'" Now link it with DHA and other businesses army runs and you will get the answer.

gary Jul 10, 2013 01:52pm


''Majority of Pakistanis are peace loving and only a tiny minority of extremists are responsible for Pakistan

sali Jul 10, 2013 02:06pm

There is a wake up call everyday when bomb blasts kill innocent people at will. How many wake up calls does Pakistan needs to wake up??

gary Jul 10, 2013 02:13pm

US EMBASSY: The commission maintained that the US embassy had prima facie compromised the diplomatic norms and traditions through its activities. It also mentioned the expansion and reconstruction of the United States chancery in Islamabad, expressing fear that it could pave way for deeper US penetration in Pakistan.............

''ISLAMABAD: US ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter has said that the United States has right to interfere in Pakistan

Devdutt Joshi Jul 10, 2013 02:17pm

George Washington, if I am not wrong, had said "The people get a type of Government they deserved."

Abdullah N. Jul 10, 2013 02:20pm

Well prepared report exposing different agencies. Now let us see if the present government has the courage to implement it.

Ali D'Mohammad Jul 10, 2013 02:23pm

@Gerry D'Cunha:

And who on Gods green earth are you to decide that? Why dont you focus on your own country's affair instead of snooping around in ours. Clearly given your name, you're a mere foreigner. Or just another pesky indian with nothing better to do than hide his true name.

Ali Ayub Jul 10, 2013 02:26pm

@Khan: Precisely.

Military still enjoys 89% approval rating so we can darn care what some useless commission comes up with

Ali Ayub Jul 10, 2013 02:28pm

@Khan: When all else fails, blame the Army - even in areas where its commercial ventures generate more taxes than any corruptly-run civilian enterprises are liabilities and eat away at national exchequer.

shaz Jul 10, 2013 02:30pm

This report is a totally waste of time and energy.

NO interview of the most critical persons in power at that time (COAS, president and PM).

No specific conclusion no specific responsiblity. Its like a FIR.

Totally filed to achieve its purpose by giving deliberate consideration to persons in power, as usual.

akram Jul 10, 2013 02:43pm

@Khan: thats funny? I thought it was the democratic party the All India Muslim league that created Pakistan, led by Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Which general do you think created it?

akram Jul 10, 2013 02:51pm

the report is undoubtedly a bold one, the authors have pulled no punches and said exactly what needed to be said. The army people who have for so long ruled the roost must learn from this experience. They must not do what they did with the report of the Hamood-ur-Rehman commission and simply ignore it. I hate to say it but civilian oversight of the security services is a must. Even though I have little faith in Nawaz Sharif personally, longer term it will strengthen institutions within the state.

we have to move away from the military model.

syed baqar ahsan Jul 10, 2013 02:53pm

I am sick of this picture,name and his story and drama played on our soil,CIA is bluffing Americans and ISI is licking his own wounds and all those own people who were involved 7/8 years back are seeking mercy from God and have no guts to admit how they did all this as told by there superior while sitting at Islamabad.

syed baqar ahsan Jul 10, 2013 03:07pm

Saudi people,Saudi Interference,Saudi culture and Saudi money is ruining all muslim countries specially Pakistan

uzair Jul 10, 2013 03:15pm

@Sunil Sinha: Please go back to your Indian newspaper for lovely conspiracies. This area is for educated people.

naeem Jul 10, 2013 03:38pm

It is being said that the USA raid to kill Bin Laden was the greatest humilation for Pakistan. I would sayy that the greatest humilation is the Presindency of Zardari .

Sultan khan Jul 10, 2013 04:46pm

When in 2nd WW the Japanese struck Pearl Harbour all of a sudden and inflicted heavy losses on American land, air and naval forces, the biggest at that time, the affairs were being run by a fully democratic government and all the institutions of the state were under its control.

Zak Jul 10, 2013 05:09pm

Question is did ISI have a cell specially to track OBL and his cronies. If not then how can anyone co-ordinate the info coming in and put the pieces together. It appears it was sincere but uncoordinated attempt hence the obvious blunders. To those who blame ISI and army etc for everything, the commission says no institution was involved and al Qaeda has killed too many pak soldiers ,rangers and civilians for any one to hide this man. Pakistanis are just too patriotic and this is something others will not understand.

Salim Akbnani Jul 10, 2013 05:37pm

@Khan: An Army that excels in making good quality corn flakes and cement but fails to deliver security to the country is not an army. GHQ is corporate and feudal headquarters looking out for it own financial and political interests.

Salim Akbnani Jul 10, 2013 05:42pm

@H Khan: In your world the earth is flat and Pakistan is the most prosperous and righteous country in the world. Never look in the mirror.

Maira Jul 10, 2013 05:39pm

@Mustafa: Really..

Salim Akbnani Jul 10, 2013 05:46pm

@Haris Chaudhry: Care to add Shias, Australians and 185 others to your list of imaginary and real enemies. Oh look, the Greeks don't like us any more.

Truth Jul 10, 2013 05:57pm

Lets put aside how he moved around Pakistan, how he was tracked, what was role of Shakeel Afridi, board of revenue and intelligence agencies

Most concerning is what our army, air force was doing, was the chief ever asked of the competency of his departments after consuming so much of tax money?

Not only that, the downed chopper was also returned with shame

Its just like if Bush was hit with the shoe and he would give it back to the owner

Truth Jul 10, 2013 05:58pm

@Haris Chaudhry: You missed one thing, that we humbly returned the downed helicopter, I wonder if army washed it to look more beautiful

Amjad Wyne Jul 10, 2013 06:30pm

The article says, "The Abbottabad Commission has called for civilian oversight over so far unaccountable security and intelligence agencies if a national embarrassment like the one caused by the US raid of May 2, 2011, is to be avoided."

If correct then it is the dumbest recommendation knowing that our governments cannot even manage themselves let alone exercising oversight over other institutions.

pathanoo Jul 10, 2013 06:33pm

The report no doubt contains some realistic, honest and bold statements and recommendations. However, I doubt much is going to change. there are several reasons for it. The Commission finds American guilty of an unfriendly attack on Pakistan soverignty in killing Osama without taking Pakistan in to confidence or without it's permission thereby absolving the despicable act of Pakistani civilian and military leadership in hiding and protecting Osama Bin Ladin for over ten years. This ABSOLUTELY could not have been possible without support from some higher ups in the military and civilian powers. Not going after this fact invalidates all the other good work that the Commission did. Wasn't the main and only purpose of the Commission was to find how OBL was living openly in Pakistan for over ten years and no one ever found him?

Rustum Ali Khan Jul 10, 2013 06:32pm

This wake up call is pretty old but the nation is still sleeping along with their so called leaders.

Amjad Wyne Jul 10, 2013 06:32pm

@H Khan: Well said - right on.

H Khan Jul 10, 2013 06:57pm

@H Khan: People can make out whatever they think about this and you can downgrade any comment favoring the Army if you want... but all of you here know very well that this is limited to media only! The fact of the matter is that Pakistani public ONLY trusts the armed forces and that Pakistan was never made for jamhooriat or martial-law.

A recent Pew Research survey of 38,000 Muslims across 39 countries shows the majority favor the implementation of sharia law. A majority of Muslims in Asia, Africa and the Middle East favored sharia law being adopted as the law of their countries, with the highest support recorded in Afghanistan at 99 percent and 96% in Pakistan.

You poor souls can try all you want to impose jamhooriat or martial-law, but the fact is that Pakistan will reach its destiny and become a true Muslim State, which was clearly described by Jinnah Sahib on countless occasions and is reflected in Objectives Resolution of Pakistan.

Jalaluddin S. Hussain Jul 10, 2013 07:28pm

@Truth: Our army and the ISI are always ready to do the dirty work.

Khan Jul 10, 2013 07:47pm

@Ali Ayub: That useless commission was setup after we lost East Pakistan and the purpose is to know the reason why we lost half the country. Pakistan is in current state due to mentality of people like you who damm care what went wrong and believe in approval ratings given by people who cannot write their name. By the way army do not pay taxes. For DHA

Maddy Jul 10, 2013 08:02pm

@Haris Chaudhry: Sarcasm at its best :)

RK Jul 10, 2013 08:15pm

Who leaked the report? No one is asking that question ..... Hhmmm

NASAH(USA) Jul 10, 2013 08:39pm

It was one of those "don't ask don't tell" whodunit shows.

Vince Jul 10, 2013 09:27pm

Strange how the article failed to mention that the US had informed the Pakistani security forces of bomb making factories four times in May 2011 alone, that were being used to kill Pakistanis, only to find them evacuated by the time the military got there. Yet expected cooperation over Bin Laden? Really now?

akhan Jul 10, 2013 10:04pm

A shameless Pakistan Army that had failed to defend the country two times and still proud. God bless Pakistan.

Mansoor Khan Jul 10, 2013 10:31pm

@Haris Chaudhry: Sheer ara ha, Sher ara ha! Just blame it on others, it is the easiest thing to do.One big reason of many, Pakistan is in this shape is because of army's adventurism in Afghanistan,kashmir, Kargil and internal politics of Pakistan. Please tell me the solid achievments of Pakistan army in the last 65 years. I dont want to hear exgerated stories without any proof. M Khan

Gerry D'Cunha Jul 10, 2013 11:14pm

@Ali D'Mohammad: its the truth that hurts my friend- for your information, i am a pakistani, born and lived in this country, and am very well aware of the situation

Aman Jul 11, 2013 02:43am

@gary: Osama is not a popular name at all. Which census data does the author of this article point to to support his claim.We hate OBL as much as the rest of the world. No one with a sane mind would name their kid Osama after 9-11. Most of Osamaz were christened pre 9-11 before this despicable act by Osama. But then again if Gary Oswald commits a crime should I judge you for that?

Amer Mahdi Jul 11, 2013 03:04am

@Amjad Wyne:

Exactly. The civilians wants control over the army & ISI. This is ridiculous. The civilians have controlled the country in more that 5 years now. What kind foreign / defence to they want to implement, that the ISI & army is stopping them from doing.

AS former DG ISI said: The American intelligence officers once said to the Pakistanis: "You are so cheap, that we can buy you with just a VISA". There is no hidden fact, that most of our civilan leaders are corrupt and are more interested in their personal gains, than the national one.

If ISI is put under civilian control, I am sure the same will happen to ISI as FIA. I don't think I need t go into the situation of FIA, a corrupt non-non efficient organisation thanks to our civilian leaders.

ADITYA Jul 11, 2013 05:38am

Nahhh..keep sleeping

Tojo Jul 11, 2013 05:53am

Does anybody in Pakistan seriously think that a country like Pakistan which is being torn apart by Pakistanis themselves in religious & sectarian intolerance & violence, and which is economically and militarily dependant on the mighty United States of America can ever stop USA or its intelligence agency, the CIA from operating in Pakistan openly or clandestinely? Come on you folks get realistic. Get your own house in order, observe and follow Islam with the proper respect that it deserves, stop killing your own people in the name of Allah, become true patriotic citizens, learn to sacrifice luxury and live on simple bread and butter, reactive national industries, create viable jobs for people, stop stealing electricity, start the process of nation building, be tolerant of each other and seek out those among you who are destroying Pakistan and creating constant mischief. Only then Pakistan will become truly independent. Until then it will have no value to the rest of the world and every country including Afghanistan and India included will continue to destroy Pakistan, slowly and slowly.

s.khan Jul 11, 2013 07:21am

Thanks al Jazeera for making the report available. Without this help the report would have never seen the light of the day. It is vitally important for the parliament to discuss the findings and demand implementation of the recommendations as soon as possible. Parliament created the commission and it will be gross negligence, disrespect for the commission members and total disregard for Pakistan to ignore the report. First priority is to find out why the report has been suppressed for so long after its submission and who ordered it.

beam Jul 11, 2013 03:54pm

wake up call? you mean azan?

Mustafa Jul 11, 2013 10:24pm

The subject line is "Osama Raid a wake-up call". This should be "Osama hiding in Pakistan for 9 years, a wake up call to the entire world". The enquiry should be about how Osama got here which is the real issue and not how he was killed.

Rafiq Jul 12, 2013 11:11am

@Haris Chaudhry: Ace comments man!! Awesome analysis!! On a serious note, the recommendations need to be at least given serious thought & all that can be be achieved needs to be achieved. Civilian rule has been corrupt no doubt, but honestly speaking the military rules were no different. Bringing the armed forces & their respective agencies under the Government oversight is the right step. The Judiciary needs to be indepent & play its part. This should at least bring some kind of accountability compared to the non-existent state today. Sadly all this at times appears as wishful thinking & it feels like things will never change as events, coomissions & reports like these get eventually forgotten.

Gerry D'Cunha Jul 12, 2013 04:12pm

@Ali D'Mohammad:another eye open comments from amer mahdi, who i suppose is a muslim and a pakistani - my advice: do not judge the book by its cover

furqan Ali Jul 13, 2013 01:43am


Each of the personnel new about the US raid.

All the politicians and military personnel knew. Our army is one the best armed forces, they could have responded well but they didnot as there was something for everyone in it.