President Asif Ali Zardari exchanging views with Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani at the Presidency in Islamabad on Tuesday. – Photo by APP

ISLAMABAD: The government set up on Tuesday the much awaited commission to investigate the May 2 US operation in Abbottabad in which Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden was killed.

The decision about the five-member commission was taken at an unscheduled two-hour meeting between President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.

According to the official notification, the commission will be headed by Justice Javed Iqbal of the Supreme Court and comprise Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, Lt-Gen (retd) Nadeem Ahmad, former inspector general of police Abbas Khan and former ambassador Ashraf Jehangir Qazi. Cabinet secretary Nargis Sethi will be secretary of the commission.

The Pakistan Muslim League-N criticised the composition of the commission and said that majority of its members were from the government side.

The party’s spokesman Siddiqul Farooq said the Leader of Opposition in National Assembly, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, had not been consulted by the prime minister about the commission. “Prime Minister Gilani should clarify whether or not the leader of opposition was taken onboard,” he said.

“If the leader of the opposition has not been consulted, it will be against the spirit of the resolution on the issue adopted by a joint sitting of both houses of parliament,” he added.

The resolution adopted on May 14 said: “The joint session of parliament called upon the government to appoint an independent commission on the Abbottabad operation, fix responsibility and recommend necessary measures to ensure that such an incident does not recur. The composition and modalities of the commission will be settled after consultations between the leader of the house and the leader of the opposition.”

On the other hand, Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) chief Asma Jehangir termed the commission illegal, saying the consent of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry had not been sought while appointing Justice Javed Iqbal as head of the commission. “The executive cannot have a hand into the judiciary over and above the chief justice,” she said.

She said it might also be possible that the name of the judge had been included in the commission without his own consent. “I don’t believe that he has been informed that he has been made the head of the commission.”

Interestingly, the powers of the ‘independent’ commission have not been included in the terms of reference, especially those required to summon any person and seek relevant record from any government department, including military organisations.

A timeframe for completing the investigation and preparing its report has also not been mentioned.

The PML-N had proposed some names as members of the commission and Justice (retd) Ebrahim was one of them.

Justice Javed Iqbal will retire from the Supreme Court on July 31.

Justice Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim is a retired judge of the Supreme Court and has quite often been critical of the government and its decisions.

Lt-Gen (retd) Nadeem Ahmad has headed several government organisations, including the Anti-Narcotics Force, Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority and National Disaster Management Authority.

Abbas Khan is a former police chief of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Ashraf Jehangir Qazi heads the Institute of Strategic Studies. He has also served as a special representative of the UN in Iraq.

The commission is mandated:

i)    to ascertain the full facts regarding the presence of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

ii)    to investigate circumstances and facts regarding US operation in Abbottabad on May 2, 2011.

iii)    to determine the nature, background and causes of lapses of the concerned authorities, if any.

iv)    to make consequential recommendations.