While the Abbottabad commission is all set to hold its maiden meeting on Tuesday to probe the May 2 US raid that killed Osama bin Laden, legal experts are speculating whether the outcome would be as bold and strong-worded as was the Hamoodur Rehman commission report. “The Abbottabad Commission is the second most significant development in the history of Pakistan after the Hamoodur Rehman Commission set up by the then government to inquire into the reasons of the fall of Dhaka,” said Tariq Mehmood, a senior counsel and former judge of the Balochistan High Court. He said the issue regarding sovereignty was one of the major questions that the present commission was required to answer. According to media reports, the Hamoodur Rehman Commission in its report was highly critical of the role of the army in politics and had recommended trial of a number of senior army top brass, including General Yahya Khan. Onerous responsibility, therefore, fell on the shoulders of the members of the commission, especially when PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif had rejected it and PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain was of the opinion that it was not needed, but the people closely monitoring its deliberations, Tariq Mehmood said. The commission was set up by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on June 21 after Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry endorsed the name of Justice Javed Iqbal of the Supreme Court as its head. Former chairman of the NDMA Lt-Gen (retd) Nadeem Ahmed, former inspector general of police Abbas Khan and former ambassador Ashraf Jehangir Qazi are other members of the commission. Cabinet Division Secretary Nargis Sethi will act as its secretary. The ministry of interior will provide secretarial support. The terms of reference of the commission are: (a) to ascertain full facts regarding the presence of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan for such a long time; (b) investigate circumstances and facts regarding the US operation; (c) determine the nature, background and causes of lapses of authorities concerned, if any; and (d) make consequential recommendations. When assembled at the Cabinet Secretariat on July 5, the commission may chalk out modalities on how to move forward that include decision by the president of the commission whether to keep its proceedings in camera, putting advertisements in the media inviting witnesses to come and depose if they have any information and decision to visit the site or not. A source told Dawn that the commission might also decide summoning of police chief of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “Yes we have received the terms of reference that include probing about the presence of Osama for such a long period of time in Pakistan and US storming,” Lt Gen (retd) Nadeem Ahmed said when approached by Dawn. During the course of deliberations the commission is bound to encounter with an issue which would crop up when the head of the commission Justice Javed Iqbal will retire as judge of the Supreme Court on July 31, especially when the proceedings of the commission may not be completed within a month. “I believe this is not a very serious matter since the appointment of Justice Javed Iqbal was made by the prime minister under the Pakistan Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1956, after getting nod by the chief justice and the prime minister has the authority to extend Justice Iqbal’s continuation as head of the commission,” observed a constitutional expert. The real issues would crop up, he feared, when the commission would be confronted with the host of questions like willingness on part of the governments of Afghanistan and the US to provide assistance, essential to ascertain the quantum of technical and intelligence failures on part of Pakistan. The technical assistance includes the specifications of the aircraft or helicop-ters used in the raid, he suggested. It is critical to determine why and how the Americans were able to collect information on the presence of Osama bin Laden through their local tentacles which the Pakistanis missed out, he said, adding the reach and level of US covert operatives inside Pakistan was also something to be looked up on which obviously was not possible without the willingness of the foreign governments.
By: Dawn News