Friday, May 13, 2011



The success of Osama bin Laden in evading detection and arrest by the Pakistani security agencies for nearly six years since 2005 when he lived in a house near the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) in Abbottabad was the result of a comprehensive intelligence failure by all agencies responsible for the collection of intelligence inside Pakistan and not the result of a failure by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) alone, which has been sought to be exclusively blamed in the US and Pakistan for the failure.

2. According to reliable sources in Pakistan, this was a point that was vehemently made by Lt.Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the DG, ISI, in his secret testimony at an in-camera joint session of the two Houses of the Pakistan Parliament on May 13,2011. While accepting responsibility for any failure of the ISI and offering to resign if so demanded by Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani, Pasha pointed out that other agencies of the Government such as the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the Police and its Special Branch also had a major responsibility for keeping a watch on the suspicious presence of foreigners in the Pakistani territory and their activities and that they seem to have equally failed in making enquiries about the suspicious looking house in which OBL was living and its occupants.

3. The IB, the Police and the SB come under Senator Rehman Malik, the Interior Minister. According to these sources, without mentioning him by name,Pasha seemed to be implying that the Ministry of the Interior was as much responsible as the ISI for the intelligence failure which enabled OBL to live in Abbottabad undetected. Pasha's offer to resign was rejected by Gilani and the in-camera session passed a resolution which, inter alia, recommended the setting up of an independent commission to enquire into the failure. A decision on the composition of the Commission and its terms of reference is expected to be taken by Gilani in consultation with the opposition leaders. The suggestion of Nawaz Sharif, the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML), for the appointment of a judicial commission of enquiry headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhury, who is not liked by the Army, did not have many takers outside the PML (N).

4.There was an over-all consensus during the in-camera session that Pakistan should not allow its Army and the ISI to be discredited to propitiate the US anger. The focus of the discussions was on two failures--- the intelligence failure which enabled OBL to live undetected at Abbottabad and the security failure which enabled the US naval commandos to carry out their clandestine raid undetected by the Pakistani Army and Air Force. While Pasha testified on the intelligence failure, the Deputy Chief of Air Staff Operations Air Marshal, Muhammad Hassan testified on the security failure. Both Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), and Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman were present during the session. Kayani left before the question and answer segment of the session started. The Chief of the Air Staff remained present throughout.

5. According to these sources, there seemed to be greater concern over the implications of the security failure than over the implications of the intelligence failure. Two concerns over the security failure were reflected during the question and answer session---- Will the US be able to mount a similar undetected raid to neutralise Pakistan's nuclear arsenal? Can there be a repeat of the Abbottabad raid elsewhere? These sources say that while India was not mentioned by name, it was apparent that the concern was over the adequacy and effectiveness of Pakistan's radar cover against Indian air intrusions.

6.The officers of the Air Force, who testified, assured the members that there was no question of the US mounting undetected a raid against Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. They did not go into details. They also claimed that the failure of Pakistani radars to detect the US chopper intrusions was due to the superior stealth technology of the US.

7. The in-camera session also saw demands from all sections of the Parliament for a comprehensive re-examination of Pakistan's relations with the US in general and its counter-terrorism co-operation with the US in particular. These sources say that the Army is also in favour of such a re-examination of relations with the US.

8. In the meanwhile, the US has stepped up pressure on the Pakistan Army to return to the US the undestroyed portion of the US helicopter, which hit the compound wall of OBL's house while coming down and had to be blown up by the Naval commandos. While both Pakistani and Chinese officials have denied that China has shown any interest in examining the undestroyed portion, the US is concerned over the possibility of Chinese experts having access to it. This issue is expected to be taken up by Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations committee, during his forthcoming visit to Islamabad. ( 14-5-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre for China Studies. E-mail: )


Krishna Kacker said...

Pakistan has to prove its credentials as an ally of US after OBL affair by deeds rather than words.Otherwise it will continue to suffer.
Intelligence or security failure,Pakistan has to set its house in order.Gen Pasha's attempt to deflect the failure to other State organs under civilian control may not bear scrutiny.

RK said...

Sir, u have not mentioned about possibility (99.9%) that ISI was involved in hiding OBL in pak all this time. I dont believe that its failure on part of ISI but they had turned out to saviors of OBL till US launched operation in abottabad eliminated OBL. No matter how much pak or ISI may deny hiding OBL they are and will always be tainted in front of the world.

Esoteric said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Esoteric said...

Pak leadership has shown an inability to comprehend and grasp ground realities(wrt terror sponsoring policies).Its also shown itself as non-transparent with both its allies and constituents.So there are two issues - communication(transparency) and strategy.

There are bleeding hearts,clogged brains and embedded interests that make a real strategic change (ie support to terror ceases) difficult to visualise to happen in Pakistan in the near future.

At the minimum,one of the these or probably both will have to change(strategy or communication).But like most things,its more likely only one would change immediately.

Communication is the easier thing to change,as its effects tend to emerge with a lag eg:RTI.So by design or default Pakistani constituents and allies will know exactly what Pakistan's strategy is..soon.

Real change in strategy will happen once the 'failure' of this long standing (30yrs+) strategy becomes apparent to everyone...its only then the forces of change will visit Pak Military/ISI etc.

This could take anything from 6 weeks to 18 months...most likely something between them.