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Haqqani and Abbottabad

Updated Mar 17, 2017 07:53am


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WHATEVER we may think or say about Husain Haqqani — and his role, statements and explanations — he was not primarily responsible for the US assault in Abbottabad on the night of May 1 and 2, 2011. The final decisions with regard to the fateful incident were not his to make. Whatever he did or did not do he claims he did not exceed his authorisation and instructions. He denies he had anything to do with the planning and execution of the assault, and despite widely held and deep-rooted reservations about his conduct as ambassador in Washington (which may or may not be justified), nothing has surfaced that contradicts his denials.

However, his recent statements do raise questions. In a recent article in the Washington Post Haqqani states “the relationships I forged with members of Obama’s campaign team ... eventually enabled the US to discover and eliminate Bin Laden without depending on Pakistan’s intelligence service or military which were suspected of sympathy toward Islamic militants”. This language, without explicitly saying so, strongly suggests, whether intentionally or not, an active and purposeful interaction with US security officials which enabled the discovery and elimination of OBL “without depending on Pakistan’s intelligence service or military”.

This interpretation of Haqqani’s own statement is neither far-fetched nor unreasonable. But equally Haqqani’s article is not a confession. He goes on to say in the article that ”friends I made from the Obama campaign were able to ask, three years later, as National Security Council officials, for help in stationing US Special Operations and intelligence personnel on the ground in Pakistan. I brought the request directly to Pakistan’s civilian leaders, who approved“… and these locally stationed Americans proved invaluable when Obama decided to carry out the operation without notifying Pakistan. Once again, while not explicitly saying so, there is here an even stronger suggestion of an active role and a sense of pride in achieving a shared objective.

Our leaders are focusing on the person of Haqqani rather than the real tragedy of Abbottabad itself.

So? Pakistan was under an international obligation to cooperate in the apprehension of OBL. An elected government apparently decided to act upon this obligation. The leaders of this government instructed their ambassador in Washington accordingly. They also sent specific instructions to enable the ambassador to facilitate the rapid issue of necessary visas to US Special Operations and intelligence personnel — who obviously disguised their real identities in their visa applications — and who proved “invaluable” when the time for action came. What is wrong or illegal about this? And if there was anything, who should be held responsible: the subordinate and active ambassador or the elected leaders who gave him instructions while allegedly keeping the military and intelligence out of the loop?

But, then, why not stand up and say so — publicly as well as in testimony to the Abbottabad Inquiry Commission? In fact the president, the prime minister and the COAS declined to meet with the Commission. Haqqani who did meet with the commission has always publicly criticised the US attack on Abbottabad and has similarly denied all prior knowledge of or involvement with the attack. Despite some possible misstatements to the commission regarding the issue of visas there has been no proof of his involvement until the suggestions he has himself made in his recent article. Why is he simultaneously denying any purposeful involvement with the US assault on Pakistan and strongly suggesting the contrary in his recent article in the Washington Post?

Whatever conclusions one may draw about the consistency and purpose of his statements and the credibility of his behaviour as Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington, they do not add up to treachery. He was, at most, a willing instrument of his political superiors. Unfortunately that is what politically appointed ambassadors are now expected to be. Nevertheless, in embellishing his personal role — for reasons one can only speculate about — while distancing himself from any responsibility for what occurred, Haqqani has effectively pointed a finger towards his civilian leaders at the time. No wonder, they are denouncing him and calling for another commission of inquiry!

Our media and political leaders, however, are concentrating on the person of Haqqani rather than the real tragedy of Abbottabad itself. This is a measure of their immaturity and irresponsibility which ensure their continuing irrelevance for the suffering people of Pakistan. In 2013, Pildat (Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency) noted a leaked interim draft of the Abbottabad Commission concluded that the Abbottabad assault was the “result of inadequate threat assessments, narrow scenario planning and insufficient consideration of available policy options. If the institutions and whole system of governance were ‘dysfunctional’ they were so because of irresponsible governance over a sustained period, including incorrect priorities and acts of commission and omission by individuals who had de jure or de facto policymaking powers”.

Pildat further noted that according to the draft report the “government’s response before, during and after May 2 appears in large part to be a story of complacency, ignorance, negligence, incompetence, irresponsibility, and possibly worse at various levels inside and outside government. Institutions either failed to discharge responsibilities that legally were theirs or they assumed responsibility for tasks that legally were not part of their duties, and for which they were not trained. This reflected the course of civil-military relations and the power balance between them.” The leaked draft also observed the ISI had “become more political and less professional”. Because of a lack of consensus in the Abbottabad Commission the final report submitted to the then prime minister comprised a main report and a dissenting report. Very irresponsibly, the government has not presented the full report to parliament or made it public despite a unanimous resolution of the Senate and National Assembly.

The Commission of Inquiry Act of 1956, moreover, is expected to be replaced by a new act which will require the government to make such reports public within 30 days of submission. The prime minister, accordingly, should now release the main and dissenting report without further delay. This matter, and not hounding Haqqani, should be our urgent priority.

The writer is a former ambassador to the US, India and China and head of UN missions in Iraq and Sudan. He was a member of the Abbottabad Commission.


Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2017


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The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (85) Closed

Alba Mar 17, 2017 03:50am

When Seal Team Six is given a mission they do their own strategic and tactical planning. No one else is involved.

Patrick Mar 17, 2017 03:53am

It was a job well done by all involved Pakistani and US nationals

Alba Mar 17, 2017 04:03am
  • ...the result of inadequate threat assessments, narrow scenario planning and insufficient consideration of available policy options... * What does that mean? It pretends to say something without saying anything. - We need a translation from the bureaucratese as written in post graduate course English. In simple English it means, This wasn't our fault. Someone else screwed up.
Akil Akhtar Mar 17, 2017 04:52am

We need to focus on the person HH and investigate his deeds agaisnt Pakistan....unless persons are punished nothing will change

Saifullah khalid Mar 17, 2017 06:03am

Very thoughtful article. Real question is not the persons like Haqqani, Dr Afridi, Yosaf Raza Gilani or Zardari. Why are not we doing any thing to improve our system of governance. In a civilized society, how even a head of the state can give instructions to an ambassador to ignore rules.

Amin Mar 17, 2017 06:10am

A lot of people taking a lot of pain to portray Hussain Haqqani as a patriot, which he definitely is not. Qazi sb, Abbotabad incident is not the only feather in Haqqani's cap, he has a long history including Memogate but then so do many others.

ali Mar 17, 2017 06:17am

A rationale discourse as always!

Varun Mar 17, 2017 06:25am

Eminently sensible.

SachBol Mar 17, 2017 06:49am

Absolutely correct!

Hemant Mar 17, 2017 06:49am

It is known to whole world that Obama would not have won second term if abbotabad was not done! Many people become rich for bringing a criminal protected by iron hand to justice...

PR MAN Mar 17, 2017 07:13am

A sensible national discourse.

SYED ANJUM ali Mar 17, 2017 07:17am

An interesting article. As a Pakistani citizen, what seriously concerns me (and what the Abbottabad commission failed to really answer) is - how come such a major wanted terrorist as OBL was living so easily and complacently in such a sensitive area of such an important garrison town?

Shankar Mar 17, 2017 07:28am

How about a commission of enquiry to find out who let the terrorist in and who gave him protection?

Khaled Mar 17, 2017 07:49am

very true, 'Our leaders are focusing on the person of Haqqani rather than the real tragedy of Abbottabad itself'.

Mike London Mar 17, 2017 07:55am

He has nothing to do with the raid, but he likes to boast. Only very few Obama cabinet members knew about the raid beforehand.

Tanvir Mar 17, 2017 08:14am

A military garrison city was attacked and the military did not even know about the attack, forget the response!

Tanvir Mar 17, 2017 08:20am

Pakistani leaders had a chance to win the anti-terrorism crown by declaring their full knowledge and cooperation in the US operation in Abbotabad. They blew it badly.

wellwisher Mar 17, 2017 08:18am

why security agencies could not find Osama, how could Musharraf say"he is probably dead",why the intruding helicopters not detected and finally how could most wanted person live so close to sensitive army installation for so long.

ENIGMA Mar 17, 2017 08:22am

Sir, as always your in depth analysis is illustrative of many complex issues surrounding the alleged "OBL capture" by US forces.

Singh Mar 17, 2017 08:28am

I am US citizen & I can vouch for HH, how he handle US media after OBL episode. Most Pak leader are thankless bunch. He done phenomenal job.

Riaz Ahmed Mar 17, 2017 09:02am

A cook starts cooking a special dish by garnering ingredients. The hectic efforts he does makes the observers feel something special is soon to be offered. Mr. Haqqani had been facilitating establishing Americans Special Operation officials' base in Pakistan and might have been unaware of final outcome. This is incomprehensible and finally unacceptable.

Dr. Salman ahmad Mar 17, 2017 09:15am

I was delighted to read the articel. Haqqani is not to blame. It is the government that is responsible.

Muneer Mar 17, 2017 09:23am

I am at a loss to understand "l

Pukudenguta Mar 17, 2017 09:52am

Qazi sahib is one of the miniscule group of sane people of Pakistan.

Oracal Mar 17, 2017 09:51am

I do not think so. He was and is a very honest and a decent man. He served Pakistan honestly,faithfully as a Pakistani and in the long interest of his mother land

Muneer Mar 17, 2017 09:55am

The article of Hussain Haqqani may not be a confession in the literal sense.It is a strong admission of his being a pivot ( with direct approval of the then political leaders but not GOP) in creating a very valuable and favorable environments to discover OBL which led USA to Plan and execute the military operation to eliminate him without permission of the government of Pakistan.In absence of his valuable contribution in creating a spying/ operating network Abbottabad tragedy may not have occurred.

SGH Mar 17, 2017 10:03am

This sane article clears the superficial dust, and pinpoints towards the central problem. The Government should publish the main report and the dissenting note of the Abbotabad Commission as soon as possible.

Mohammad Qader Mar 17, 2017 10:09am

Mr Qazi, Unfortunately Pakistan has always been trying to please the foreign masters in one form or the other. People of Pakistan really do not matter but the dictation of master does!

Iqbal bhai Mar 17, 2017 10:52am

"Unfortunately that is what politically appointed ambassadors are now expected to be. " If you, dear sir, expect this from an ambassador, then I am thoroughly disappointed. If the ambassador was forced to do something unprofessional, he should have resigned.

What actually you have failed to mention is that Mr. Haqqani is primarily maligning the intelligence apparatus. The democratically elected government did not bother to align with its own institutions responsible for the security.

Guest67 Mar 17, 2017 10:53am

PPP now disowning Hussian Haqqani in the light of his article based disclosures ( Khursid shah opposition leader from PPP ) , is in itself a testimony of admitting of candid Guilt by the then ruling Party PPP .

sajjad kamran Mar 17, 2017 11:02am

"Pakistan was under an international obligation to cooperate in the apprehension of OBL. An elected government apparently decided to act upon this obligation."

Sir ! what a gem of a piece of writing (as always).

Absolute Beauty.

I would only like to add here that Americans raided OBL's Abbottabad compound not because of Ambassador Haqqani, but because of OBL, who was sheltered there. Locating, apprehending and taking subsequent action against OBL was someone's responsibility from within the Government of Pakistan, which that 'someone" simply failed to carry out.

MUnib Mar 17, 2017 11:05am

Yes confession that he helped eliminate world most wanted terrorist.

And he is our hero and anyone's hero who believes in a world without these Terrorists.

hani Mar 17, 2017 11:46am

Our media is overwhelmingly looking for breaking news invariably; no matters how frivolous a news may be... Undoubtedly, Mr. Haqqani had been remained in political invisibility since long ago and, now he wants to be appeared in limelight again... That's what he eventually does to keep himself appear and near to Washington vis a vis to newly elected Trump administration... Afterall, Mr. Haqqani is an outright diplomate..

xtra Mar 17, 2017 12:04pm

@hani How long will you stay in denial? How long?

Parvez Mar 17, 2017 12:07pm

This whole Husain Haqqani affair smells looks very much like a lot of unnecessary noise deliberately created to divert people's attention. Everyone knows that nothing is going to result from this noise.

GENGHIS khan Mar 17, 2017 12:12pm

Sir, All are afraid to face the truth; They want to sweep it under the carpet and live like an ostrich. But, what they should know is it is better to get the deep wound cured by taking corrective steps, instead of only trying to hide it from view.

M Jamal Mar 17, 2017 12:24pm

A very convincing article.The Pildat observation on the leaked draft report of the commission is the facts concerning our bad governance at the time of OBL incident as well as now.It seem a ship without a qualified Captain and everyone taking control/diverting to his/her abilities.

Imran Ahmed Mar 17, 2017 12:40pm

If a civilian officer, with the agreement of a representative government, works towards apprehending the most wanted terrorist in the world hiding in our country and is vindicated, how come he has his certificate of patriotism withdrawn?

Taurious Mar 17, 2017 12:43pm

"Everyone" has a"price" for a "sellout"

Faraz Mar 17, 2017 01:04pm

Whatever the circumstances or reasons, no ambassador worth his salt would willingly & knowingly facilitate the placement of foreign intelligence agents in his country. This is the issue which needs to be highlighted.

Qaiaar Mar 17, 2017 01:22pm

@Muneer what is difference between political leaders and govt. Of Pakistan

Nadeem Mar 17, 2017 01:49pm

Bottomline: No matter who did what, to whom, and when, the bottomline is that what Pakistan started in 1979 - getting involved in the Afghan war - snowballed and snowballed and snowballed. 50,000 Pakistanis are dead, OBL is found on our territory, drugs and kalashnokovs everywhere, Pakistan becoming known as the epicenter of terrorism, and on and on and on ........ a decision taken by dictator Zia 38 years ago will haunt us for decades more.

Najaf Mar 17, 2017 01:55pm

What is there to feel shy about. Whoever was involved in this incident did the right thing.

Skeptic Mar 17, 2017 02:04pm

The word 'Treason' comes to mind.

Fakem Ali Mar 17, 2017 02:06pm

@Shankar : You don't need a commission for this. Even a little child would tell you the answer..

GENGHIS khan Mar 17, 2017 02:18pm

@Nadeem , Wow, wow, wow; What others struggle to express in one full page article, you could condense in 6 lines. Whether anybody accepts it or not, this is the true picture of Pakistan today.

parvez Mar 17, 2017 02:32pm

We always seek scapegoats instead of resolving issues.

K Niaz Mar 17, 2017 02:44pm

Rather thatn talking of persons its more important to talk to the national discourse and actions. Plus, should helping taking out a world most wanted terror be construed as treason? the most important question people should be asking in how come OBL had lived and survived in Pakistan since 2001... who facilitated his stay and cover...

Najaf Mar 17, 2017 02:52pm

@Nadeem Awsome bro!!! You nailed it. Exactly how I feel!

MURTAZA H. Mar 17, 2017 04:12pm

In your heart you know that Haqqani is not someone who loves Pakistan. He lived in the U.S before. He lives there now. His allegiance is not to Pakistan, but to himself. Should never have been appointed.

Dr. S. Rehman Mar 17, 2017 04:25pm

This Haqqani and Zardari govt was never loyal to this country. They are the epicenter of corruption and disorder where ever they go.

Ghani K Mar 17, 2017 04:59pm

We should be focusing on the role of civilian government at the time of attack on OBL's hideout in Abbottabad. Husain Haqqani was a mere go between ,a carrier pigeon between Obama administration and Zardari , Gilani administration . Here we have a situation beyond any shadow of the doubt , Pakistani civilian government collaborating with a foreign country without consulting our security agencies. Why not question Zardari and Raza Gilani ? After all sovereignty of Pakistan was violated.

Rashid Mar 17, 2017 05:03pm

Thanks Mr. Ashraf for writing such a pragmatic and logical article. I wonder when some one in our country will have courage to talk about the real fact instead of just victimizing some one else for our own mistakes.

Muneer Mar 17, 2017 05:23pm

@Qaiaar .Ambassadors functions through Foreign Ministry and not directly with the civilian (political) leaders as done by Haqqani.The government functions as per a specific chain / laid down rules of business.If it does not follow the rules of business it is dysfunctional.In this particular case it dealt directly with one official appointment to fix another department to enhance vested interests of his own/ foreign forces which could also be called treason.It resulted into violation of sovereignty of Pakistan .

Imran Ahmed Mar 17, 2017 06:44pm

Both the security agencies and the country's government at a policy making level need to establish a clear chain of command and cooperation with trust. Pakistan was left looking like a great big banana republic with the government going one way and its subordinate services marching in the opposite direction. Either our security forces need to answer to civilians or we need to finish the scam of democracy.

last word Mar 17, 2017 06:49pm

Well, this was a case in where everyone at top must have known about presence of OBL but due to serious international implications decided in unison to show complete ignorance and involvement in the case. The former PM Mr Gilani immediately after this incident gave a clean chit to all stating it was a failure of world's intelligence agencies and not Pakistan says it all.

The Right Wrong Mar 17, 2017 07:45pm

There are deliberate known-unknowns, that every country has under its carpet and lets not get worked up about the greater good and the right thing to do. There is no such thing. Period.

There are no angels, not on this planet at least, at best only national interests and usually and mostly personal interests that drive policies.

It was American national or rather corporate interest that created OBL and it was American interest that needed him dead and needed Pakistan to look as the bad guy in the process.

Pakistan had to look after its own interest and survival.

Uzma Mar 17, 2017 08:03pm

@Akil Akhtar That the dilemma with not only Pakistan but all societies like Pakistan where the focus is individuals, be it politics, accountability, or anything. Our institutions are individual driven. Need to rise above idiosyncrasies and got to have institutional account abilities and set ups. No one would be able to do things above law and get away unscathed if our institutional norms are strengthened for everyone.

M. Ahmed Mar 17, 2017 10:22pm

Forget about this whole saga and please focus on solving people's problems. After all no one can place a copy of report on table and eat it.

worthless wealth Mar 17, 2017 10:33pm

"Nevertheless, in embellishing his personal role — for reasons one can only speculate about — while distancing himself from any responsibility for what occurred, Haqqani has effectively pointed a finger towards his civilian leaders at the time. No wonder, they are denouncing him and calling for another commission of inquiry!

If there is honor among thieves, is there an honor among politicians!

hopeful Mar 17, 2017 10:44pm

@Alba How would or do you know?

GK Mar 17, 2017 11:14pm

Haqqani brings pride to Pakistan. Period. It is media that is confused and immature right from the get go...

gknatarajan Mar 17, 2017 11:31pm

it is clear case of diversionary tactics by govt. to concentrate on haquani, sir! it is obvious!

Zak Mar 18, 2017 12:44am

Pakistan lacks true leadership. Nincompoops have wangled their way in and are hanging on to power, not letting the good, clean leaders come in.

Alba Mar 18, 2017 12:48am

@Shankar .... That is what Nawaz Sharif doesn't want people to know, and what Nawaz does not want to find out.

Alba Mar 18, 2017 12:49am

@Tanvir .... They are not smart enough to have thought of that.

khakanbabar Mar 18, 2017 01:00am

@Saifullah khalid because the people of Pakistan keep voting the same corrupt, unqualified, self centered , vision less nincompoops into power again and again.

Alba Mar 18, 2017 01:25am

@M Jamal .... Because Pakistan is not about democracy. Pakistan is about political power.

Alba Mar 18, 2017 01:32am

@The Right Wrong .... Israel's war in Lebanon created Osama bin Laden. That is what Osama bin Laden said. I believe Osama bin Laden not you. He knew more about himself than you did. While we are on the subject Israel was created by your very best friends the British. The people who taught South Asia everything it knows. "No man can serve two masters."

Alba Mar 18, 2017 01:42am

@Faraz ..... You are right there. If I were a Pakistani I would feel exactly the same way. Most of the critics here missed the nucleus of the argument against what Husain Haqqani has done. I am not part of that argument. In his case "confession is good for the soul".

Alba Mar 18, 2017 01:55am

@M Jamal .... It seems a ship without a qualified Captain and everyone taking control/diverting to his/her abilities. _ _ _ It seems more like a ship without a captain, and a crew heading for the lifeboats carrying whatever they could loot from the dinning room and the purser's office.

Syed dani ahmed Mar 18, 2017 01:56am

It's about time we move on from Bin Ladin fiasco. We should grant Hussain Haqani and Shakeel Afridi a pardon and welcome them back to our society. This will at least bring some respect back to nation. Although we will need to keep strict surveillance on both of them to avoid any future embarrassment.

desidude Mar 18, 2017 02:31am

@SYED ANJUM ali - that indeed is the right question.

KP Mar 18, 2017 02:31am

Pakistan had had several commissions in its post partition history; most of them never made public. So, why have a commission if u are not going to disclose its findings? Why go through all that expense & efforts?

imran Mar 18, 2017 03:21am

@Saifullah khalid Correcting system!!!!!! Did PTI dharnas achieved anything? Only the people of Pakistan can correct the system but they divided due to many reasons,,,political system is one of them. Majority Pakistani dont even know the true meaning of democracy, do you remember how people celeberated when the PPP government eliminated local bodies system????

Rehman Mar 18, 2017 03:34am

What I find difficult to understand is why is it that most of our fellow countrymen do not want to ask the question as to why Bin Laden was in Pakistan in the first place? Considering the immense damage the whole exercise has done to our international image, surely that is a question we should be asking? Instead we seem to be mostly blaming the people who helped identify him, and that makes us look even worse in the eyes of the other countries of the world.

Stu2dent Mar 18, 2017 07:34am

Why have we never seen a dead body? Why Benazir Bhutto said in a 2007 interview OBL is dead?

Regarding Abottabad report simply word of mouth, few articles here and there , few comments by this and that is of no use.

What if the Abbotabad report says OBL was not there? Is this why they are delaying it? It is obvious in that case USA will be in trouble. Are the articles like "confession" in foreingn papers amount to pressuring us? At least I don't see USA political agendas in a positive light!!

Bismillah Khan Mar 18, 2017 08:12am


Answer is obvious!

cautious Mar 18, 2017 05:14pm

What are refreshing article! Bashing Haqqani has become a favorite pastime in Pakistan - but those who bash him seem to ignore that he was doing his job and nobody has been close to filling his shoes since he left office.

nouman Mar 18, 2017 05:25pm

is it true that osama bin ladin was present in pakistan? and apprehended by pakistani officials .....

Iftikhar Husain Mar 18, 2017 05:53pm

The nation want to see this report now.

Masood Hussain Mar 18, 2017 06:02pm

I don' find any wrong with Haqqani's statement or action to harm our cause

Vijay B. Mar 19, 2017 08:23am

By putting out occasional tidbits like the subject article, Mr. Haqqani stays in the limelight and keeps his importance viable. Can't blame him, after all, he now needs to make a living the best he knows how, all on his own.

Muneer Mar 19, 2017 10:00am

The author who was a member of the Abbottabad Commission has noted that apart from some misstatements on visa issue,there was no proof of Haqqani involvement in US Abbottabad raid until his own suggestion of it in his recent article.The commission among others was to investigate the circumstances and facts leading to the raid.The recent article of Haqqani indicates that the Commission has failed to 'Investigate 'correctly ,the real circumstances / reasons leading to the raid.Its findings/ recommendations ought to be different from whatever is known through leaks in view of Haqqani's article.

Zaman Mar 19, 2017 08:59pm

Questions to the Ambassador. Did he perform his job to further the interests of 1. Pakistan. 2. USA. 3. Both Pakistan and USA- more for Pakistan. 4. Both USA and Pakistan - more for USA. 5. To promote his own interests at the expense of all others. The honest answer I suspect is 5. His arrogant and unrepentant responses are testimony to this.