News Column

Pakistan Keeping Bin Laden Report on the Down Low

July 9, 2013

Pakistan said Tuesday it was too early to say whether someone would be punished for failing to detect slain al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden's decade-long stay in the country, amid leaks of a government report into the matter.

"It isn't the time to ask this," Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said.

His comment came after a leaked government investigation into the killing of bin Laden blamed unnamed authorities for negligence and incompetence in failing to detect or capture him.

US Navy SEALs killed bin Laden on May 2, 2011 in his residential compound in the city of Abbottabad, about 100 kilometres north of Islamabad.

The government later formed an investigating commission. The findings were never revealed officially, but leaked to Al Jazeera television on Monday.

There were conflicting reports Tuesday as to whether Pakistani authorities had blocked Al Jazeera's website to prevent access to the leaked report.

Internet service providers told dpa the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), an official regulator, has issued instructions to all companies to suspend the website temporarily.

The website was suspended at several places in the capital, Islamabad, and eastern city of Lahore.

"We can't open it anymore," said Awais Ahmad, a 35-year-old businessman in Rawalpindi, a city in central Punjab province.

But some private internet service companies did not block the site in defiance of government instructions. And a PTA spokesman denied that the government had issued such an order.

"We didn't ask anybody to block the website," said Khurram Mehran, the PTA spokesperson, "There might be a problem with their server."

The document said bin Laden had been moving around undetected in various Pakistani cities for five years before settling in a fort-like compound near a military training facility.

The information minister said the government was investigating how the report was leaked to media and whether its contents were authentic.

"Only the government was authorized to declassify the document," Rashid said. "We will see who did it."

A Foreign Ministry spokesman refused to comment.

The powerful military, which controls security-related policies, did not offer any reaction. "We don't want to comment to it," said an official at the Army's press office.

"Culpable negligence and incompetence at almost all levels of government can more or less be conclusively established," the 336-page classified document said.

The report, authored by a former Supreme Court judge, did not fix responsibility on any person or group of people for failure to trace the presence of bin Laden in Pakistan or detect the US raid on May 2.

"It is unnecessary to specify the names as its obvious who they are," the report said. "It may be politically unrealistic to suggest punishment for them.

"But as honourable men, they ought to do the honourable thing, including submitting a formal apology to the nation for their dereliction."

The operation by a team of US Navy SEALs in the garrison city of Abbottabad had triggered suspicion about help bin Laden might have received from 'inside' Pakistani security and secret agencies.

Though it did not explicitly mention any insider role, the leaked report blamed Pakistani authorities for negligence and incompetence for failing to detect both bin Laden stay and American raid.






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Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH


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