Are we heading toward another bin Laden disaster?

Today is 6th anniversary of that black day in history when it was revealed to the world that Osama bin Laden, the world’s most wanted terrorist, was not only living comfortably in Pakistan but was living comfortably outside PMA Kakul. After six years, still we do not know the full details of how this was allowed to happen. Whether the state was complicit in protecting and hiding bin Laden, or whether our agencies were so incompetent that they could not find him even while he is living next door, the answers in the Abbottabad Commission Report have been hidden from us.

The government says that the facts cannot be made public because doing so is a threat to national security. Such excuses do not give any more confidence in the state’s role. Even though the full report has not been published, though, there are some parts that have been leaked by the media, and these might give us a clue as to what actually happened. For example, while saying ‘The U.S. acted like a criminal thug‘, the leaked report also says this:

“Although the possibility of some degree of connivance inside or outside the government cannot be entirely discounted, no individual can be identified as guilty of connivance.”

In other words, the commission could was not confident that Osama bin Laden did not receive state support, but they were unable to learn who it was that was helping him.

This was also stated by ex-DG ISI Lt Gen Asad Durrani who said:

“I cannot say exactly what happened but my assessment […] was it is quite possible that they [the ISI] did not know but it was more probable that they did.”

Whatever happened six years ago, are we repeating it today? A high level government official recent admitted that ‘he was “100 percent” sure that bin Laden’s 26-year-old son, Hamza, a rising power in Al-Qaeda, is also in the country under ISI protection’. Hamza has been termed ‘Al Qaeda poster boy‘ and his name has been placed on global terror lists. If ISI is protecting him, are we heading toward another disaster?

Right now, most of these are still only questions and possibilities because the actual facts are unknown to us. They ARE known to someone, though, and the nation should be taken into confidence. Till date the state has insisted that the facts of Osama bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan must be hidden to protect national security. They have it backwards. However negative or embarrassing the facts are, making them public is the only way to make sure that they are not repeated, which is the only way to protect our national security.

Husain Haqqani Controversy: The Real Cover Up

cover upThe latest controversy surrounding Husain Haqqani continues to grow as different parties try to score some political points. Whether it is PMLN trying to solidify its power, or PPP’s unseemly willingness to turn on one of its own, everyone knows that piling on someone who has openly criticised the Army’s policies towards militants is a low risk proposition. The reality is that this latest episode is nothing but a repeat of past dramas, and like those too nothing will come of it except distracting from the actual problems facing the nation.

As it has already been pointed out, there is not any new information in Haqqani’s latest article. There was never a denial that he issued visas to Americans working for the US government, but as already explained in his statement to the Abbottabad Commission that no unauthorised visas were issued to Americans agents while he was Ambassador. This brings up an important point: There has already been a commission to investigate these claims, and it has already produced a report! However, as always, it has been kept secret from the people opening the door to conspiracy theories and confusion. If there is some great concern over Haqqani’s article, the obvious answer is to follow advice of Justice Javed Iqbal, who headed the Abbottabad Commission and publish the complete report so the people can know the actual findings.

This raises another important point: While we have already had a commission investigate Abbottabad raid, nothing has been done to investigate and explain any of the following:

This is only a partial list of unanswered questions that the state has shown no interest in investigating. Do we have nothing better to do than try to interpret and decode hidden messages in Husain Haqqani’s writings?

In Husain Haqqani’s latest article he gave the example of passing messages between US officials and Pakistan officials. As was obvious to anyone who can read, he was explaining that this is the job of a diplomat – to pass messages back and forth. Nowhere does he say that he issued any unauthorised visas, and no one has shown any evidence that he did. Does the state really want to push things to the limit that records of every visa and who authorised them (including military personnel) are leaked to the public?

The obvious next step is not to constitute a new commission but to release to the public the report already compiled by Abbottabad Commission and once again face the inevitable questions about how Osama bin Laden was able to enter Pakistan and live next door to PMA Kakul without ever being noticed by our own agencies. Next we can answer questions about why officials continue to accuse civilians of treason for any contacts with CIA when it is well known that most cooperation was with Army and ISI agents and not civilians. Most importantly, though, we must stop allowing this pathetic political point scoring to continue as cover up for the lies and failures of state policy that continue to plague our nation and cause the deaths of hundreds of innocents.

Hatchet Jobs and Cover Ups

GHQ

I don’t usually agree with Ansar Abbasi, but when someone is right…they’re right. The Jang columnist recently wrote about the problems caused by intelligence agencies operating with complete lack of oversight. Little could he know how his thesis would be proven correct over the next few days as story after story added damning evidence against agencies.

After years of denials, ISI is finding itself facing new charges of support the 26/11 terrorist attack. Former CIA director Michael Hayden has now publicly revealed ISI’s involvement in his new book. The ex-US intelligence chief says that he was personally told of ISI’s involvement by none other than the DG-ISI Shuja Pasha.

“We had no doubt that the attack was the work of LeT, and there was mounting evidence that preparation for and direction of the attack took place from within Pakistan, where LeT enjoyed the protection and support of ISI,” Mr. Hayden said.

Pasha, who had come to ISI only a few weeks earlier and had no previous intelligence experience, came to the U.S. on Christmas Day and spent most of the next afternoon in his office.

“He worked carefully from notes. His investigation had revealed that some former ISI members were involved with Lashkar-e-Taiba [no surprise there]. Pasha admitted that these unspecified [and still uncaptured] retirees may have engaged in some broad training of the attackers, but he was characteristically vague about any detailed direction the attackers had gotten during the attack via cell phone from Pakistan,” Mr. Hayden wrote in the book.

This admission comes the same day that PM’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz admitted that one of the mobile numbers linked to Pathankot attackers was traced to Jaish-e-Mohammad headquarters in Bahawalpur. Once again, this admission comes after security officials strongly denied any links between the ISI-supported militants group and the terrorist attack.

These revelations follow a third shocking admission. Yesterday, former DG-FIA Tariq Khosa wrote a damning piece that exposed the entire ‘memo-gate’ saga as a drama written by GHQ and directed by ISI to neuter the civilian government.

With these three revelations facing us now, we should think about Tariq Khosa’s words of warning.

No heads rolled after the OBL raid; no one had the courage to ask the military elite some tough questions.

The establishment has acquired the art of turning its strategic follies to triumphs. It is this deep state that has curtailed and trimmed democracy, ensuring the country stays rigged in favour of a small but self-aggrandising elite. And until that changes, democracy in Pakistan will remain imperiled.

26/11, Pathankot, ‘Memogate’. These can all be categorised with other strategic blunders: Osama bin Laden living in the shadows of PMA Kakul. Kargil fiasco. Operation Searchlight. The list goes on and on and on. We have allowed agencies to operate with no oversight because they claim it is a matter of ‘national security’. But it is exactly this that has made the nation less secure. Agencies failed policies and strategies have made our neighbors suspect us and have allowed extremism to grow unchecked into the monster that we face today. To paraphrase Tariq Khosa: “Until that changes, Pakistan will remain imperiled.”

The Durrani Network: What does Seymour Hersh’s Report Tell About Supposedly “Retired” ISI Men?

Hamid Gul Aslam Beg Asad Durrani

Seymour Hersh’s sensational 10,000 word report on the Abbottabad raid was met by most analysts, including this humble blogger, with something of a smirk. While he described the official version of events as a story that “might have been written by Lewis Carroll”, his tale itself seemed to be filled with deep rabbit holes. However, things began to quickly take a turn as additional sources from the shadowy world of spy agencies began to confirm portions of his story. First came NBC News report that said that “a special operations officer and a CIA officer who had served in Pakistan…and a third source, a very senior former U.S. intelligence official” all confirmed that “a retired Pakistani military intelligence officer” helped the CIA track down Osama bin Laden and that “some officials in the Pakistani government knew where bin Laden was hiding all along”. Then came a second report where investigative journalist Carlotta Gall said that this part of Hersh’s report was also in line with what she was told during her research in Pakistan:

I learned from a high-level member of the Pakistani intelligence service that the ISI had been hiding Bin Laden and ran a desk specifically to handle him as an intelligence asset. After the book came out, I learned more: that it was indeed a Pakistani Army brigadier — all the senior officers of the ISI are in the military — who told the C.I.A. where Bin Laden was hiding, and that Bin Laden was living there with the knowledge and protection of the ISI.

I will not pretend to have any insights into this. Like everyone else, I am watching the story unfold before my eyes. There is one thing that has captured my curiosity, though. In dismissing Seymour Hersh’s report, many analysts both in Pakistan and abroad, criticised the reporter for relying so heavily on former DG-ISI Gen Duranni. He retired from service 20 years ago, they explained. He may be good at getting himself on TV, but he’s not privy to such details of covert operations. Now, though, it’s not just Seymour Hersh whose story is being confirmed, it’s Gen Durrani’s.

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Dangerous Implications of Seymour Hersh’s Story

Gen Durrani

According to American journalist Seymour Hersh, the official story of the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden is a lie that “might have been written by Lewis Carroll”. Ironically, it is Hersh’s version that is actually much more dotted with rabbit holes than Obama’s. Which is correct? Some will accept one or another at face value, depending on whether or not it confirms what they would like to believe. In fact, reading Hersh’s report one quickly gets the feeling that he was eager to believe anything that would weave a blockbuster story to boost his reputation. I will not take the time to note every problem with Hersh’s story as this has already been done by others, rather, I want to note something that has not been pointed out that should be very troubling for any Pakistani who wants to believe his tale.

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