ISLAMABAD, May 9: A week after the killing of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani started reaching out to his officers on Monday with details of the incident in an effort to put to rest growing unease among the ranks as the US raid in Abbottabad appears to have dented the military establishment’s little questioned image at home.
In the first round of town-hall style meetings in Rawalpindi, Kharian and Sialkot garrisons with army officers, Gen Kayani blamed poor media handling of the aftermath of the raid for the public dejection. The meetings focussed on the Abbottabad incident.
At a corps commanders’ conference last week, Gen Kayani had conceded an ‘intelligence failure’ in not being able to detect the refuge of the world’s top fugitive at a stone’s throw from the Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul for over five years and ordered an investigation, to be presided over by the army’s adjutant general.
“Incomplete information and lack of technical details have resulted in speculations and misreporting. Public dismay and despondency has also been aggravated due to an insufficient formal response,” a statement issued by the ISPR quoted Gen Kayani as having said at Monday’s meetings, none of which were open to the media.
Although the quote didn’t directly lay the blame at the government’s doorstep, it was clear from the statement that the army was not happy with the way the political administration had handled the matter in the media.
For about 36 hours after the incident, there was virtually a silence in government circles except for a press release issued by the Foreign Office.
Gen Kayani, who resolutely reminded his audiences about the military’s efforts against militancy over the past years, laid out the blueprint of his strategy to steer the military and intelligence establishment out of the controversy through involvement of the political leadership which traditionally has had very little say in defence and security matters.
“The strength of democracy must be put into effect to develop a consensus on important security issues, including the war on terror.
“Articulation of a national response through parliament, under the circumstances, is the most effective way to let the world know the historic achievements of Pakistan against Al Qaeda and its terror affiliates,” the general said.
It was in this context that Gen Kayani had asked Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to convene an in camera joint session of both houses of parliament where military and intelligence chiefs will brief parliamentarians about the US operation.
At all the three interactions, Gen Kayani is reported to have engaged with the officers to address the questions that, a source said, “could have been agitating their minds”.
The opinions shared with the army chief by his well-mannered officers, the source said, were quite frank and reflected the concerns among the masses.