PESHAWAR: A Peshawar High Court bench has asked chairman of the Commission of Inquiry into Abbottabad Incident retired Justice Javed Iqbal to respond to a petition seeking orders for the commission to probe the prior information allegedly available with the then president, Asif Ali Zardari, about the May 2011 US military operation against Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.
Justice Mohammad Ghazanfar Khan and Justice Abdul Shakoor issued the orders after the petitioner, Shahid Orakzai, a freelance journalist, pleaded the court to ask the Abbottabad commission to examine the ‘evidence’ of the alleged communication between former president Zardari and then Pakistani ambassador to the US Hussain Haqqani prior to the Abbottabad operation and submit a report about it within 30 days.
As an interim relief, the petitioner has requested the court to suspend Mr. Zardari’s membership of the National Assembly and stop him from leaving the country.
Petition calls for probe into ‘prior’ information about US operation against Osama
The respondents in the petition are Mr Zardari, Abbottabad commission chairman retired Justice Javed, and interior secretary.
The petitioner said the secret information was conveyed to Mr Zardari through one of his advisers, Farah Naz Ishpahani, but he didn’t convey it to the security forces.
Muzzamil Khan, lawyer for Mr Zardari, opposed the plea saying the Abbottabad commission was no longer functional and had already submitted its report to the government.
He said the petition was not maintainable and was liable to be dismissed.
The lawyer said the petitioner was not an aggrieved person.
The petitioner said Mr Zardari was covertly connected with the American CIA over operation against Osama bin Laden and that his connection should be proved before the Abbottabad commission.
When Justice Abdul Shakoor inquired the evidence he’d about the matter, the petitioner said he would produce the evidence before the commission.
He added that if Mr Zardari wanted, he should concede that he had received the information but didn’t consider it reliable and therefore, it wasn’t conveyed to the security forces.
The petitioner said he believed that Mr Zardari had deliberately concealed the information from security forces.
He said under Article 243 of the Constitution, the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee’s chairman and the chiefs of the three forces were appointed by the president and therefore, he was duty bound to inform the forces about the sensitive information.
The bench observed that before holding any further proceedings, it would know about the point of view of the Abbottabad commission’s chairman.
The petitioner claimed that the commission head, who currently headed the National Accountability Bureau, was informed about the matter in writing before the commission had summoned the petitioner.
He added that he had assured the commission that he held ‘irrefutable’ documentary evidence that President Zardari did know about the US attack in the last week of April 2011 and the proof could be examined.
In written comments, Mr Zardari said the matter was related to the 2011 incident but was being agitated before the court in 2019.
He said the commission held threadbare inquiry, examined civil, military and personnel of all agencies and innumerable others and held prolonged sessions, hearings and deliberations before submitting a report, which, with its sensitivities and national interests, concluded the matter.
Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2019