OBL raid, five years on

May 02, 2016

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IT looks as if we are not going to have a single authoritative account of the May 2, 2011, raid in Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden — at least not any time soon.

In fact, there will be newer claims and fresher or spruced-up versions of the event, such as the account that renowned investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has put forward.

In a newly published book on the subject, Mr Hersh has once more made the claim that Pakistan knew where Osama bin Laden was living but that it kept this knowledge from the United States at the behest of Saudi Arabia.

Whereas some have challenged this theory, there have also been several calls for greater transparency and a frank account of the events of that fateful night.

But debate has not been able to progress on the topic since the government classified the findings of the inquiry into the incident.

Most of the report was leaked, but the full picture was still not clear. In the absence of the official report, people’s imagination has been left to feed on the visible, usual suspects, offering an escape to others who might well have been involved — much like other inquiry reports that have not seen the light of day.

Five years later, institutions in Pakistan which could help everyone arrive at some sensible explanation do not feel compelled to reveal or even probe the facts.

For want of better visibility, the attention is usually fixed almost entirely on the then army and ISI chiefs and president.

It is convenient for many that the blame for the blatant May 2011 violation of the country’s sovereignty has been put squarely on retired Gen Ashfaq Kayani, retired Lt Gen Shuja Pasha and Asif Zardari.

There is little dispute that they will be the first suspects in any investigation of one of the most humiliating incidents in the history of this country.

Yet it is far from an open and shut case. It has to be ascertained who was responsible and to what extent.

The official release of the report would be an important first step towards this goal. Otherwise, the passage of each year will make it even more difficult for Pakistanis to attempt to find answers to this riddle. There is no need to hide the truth from the people. Indeed, they are more than mature and capable of handling it.

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2016