Zardari sent questionnaire on Abbottabad raid: Iqbal

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Announcing that the Abbottabad Commission would complete its investigation by the end of December, the commission’s chairman Justice (r) Javed Iqbal said on Thursday that the investigative body had sent a questionnaire President Asif Ali Zardari regarding the May 2 covert US strike.
“We have addressed a questionnaire to Asif Ali Zardari as co-chairman of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) for getting answers on important questions… if he claims immunity from being answerable before the commission, the commission will look into it,” Justice (r) Iqbal said in a press conference, which was apparently held to dispel ‘objections’ over the speed of the commission’s working.
He said the commission had also asked leaders of various political parties including Nawaz Sharif, Asfandyar Wali, Altaf Hussain, Imran Khan and others to present their points of view on the May 2 incident before the commission. He said the commission had summoned Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani to get answers on the issuance of a large number of visas to US citizens.
“We will ask him under which law the visas were issued to US citizens… we cannot investigate the memo issue but the commission will definitely look into those matters of the memo which revolve around the May 2 incident,” he added.
When a reporter asked Justice (r) Iqbal to confirm that the man killed in the May 2 operation was Osama bin Laden, he said: “If I tell this what would be left to share in the report?”
He said all offices were equal before the commission and the commission under its mandate could summon anyone to question. He said the commission would complete its investigation by the end of December 2011 and then compile report at the earliest. “We will also recommend the government to publish the enquiry report… but making the enquiry report public does not fall under the purview of the commission,” he added.
Replying to another question he said US authorities had also been contacted to share information they collected from the Abbottabad compound but they said the material was in Arabic and it would take at least six months to translate it into any other language.
Dispelling the impression created by a few circles about the speed of the commission, he said the commission held 20 session and recorded statements of around 100 witnesses in the last five months.
“It was a huge task with numerous dimensions… we found new facts as we moved forward opening new dimensions in the case,” he said. “We are also questioning foreigners as the commission summoned head of Save the Children… the commission is also examining the operations of various foreign NGOs in the country,” he added. The commission was also examining the presence of the CIA in Pakistan, he said.
Justice (r) Iqbal said that the commission had completed investigations with Osama’s family and had asked the government to repatriate them under the law of the land. Responding to a question about threats to the commission, he admitted that the members of the commission had occasionally received threats “but we are ready to sacrifice our lives for the national interest”.
He said the commission’s report would also point out lapses of any security organisation, if any, irrespective of its power and influence. The commission chairman once again appealed to all segments of society to come forward if they had any knowledge about the incident and their names and the information so provided would remain confidential. He also said the commission intended to meet ministers, parliamentary committees and, if necessary, the highest officials of the land to ascertain the truth.
He said the purpose of meeting eminent and relevant persons was to benefit from their views and suggestions with regard to the scope and content of the commission’s report.
“These meetings will be conducted confidentially to encourage the invitees to speak and advise with the utmost candour and with maximum specificity instead of confining themselves to general statements,” he said.
He said the report of the commission would cover the domestic, the bilateral Pakistan-US, and international context in which the incident of May 2 occurred. “It will detail internal and external developments in the run-up to the incident. These include the sequence of events from the commencement of Operation Neptune Spear to its completion and exit of its operational personnel from Pakistani territory, the precise conduct of the US raiding and assassination operation at the OBL compound, and assess the responses of all Pakistani civil, intelligence and military institutions and personnel concerned, including their leadership,” he added.
The chairman said the commission’s report would seek to provide answers or informed and best possible surmises with regard to a whole range of outstanding questions. “These include whether Osama was present and killed in Abbottabad, any ground level support that might have been available to him while in Pakistan, explanations and their evaluation with regard to the failure to detect his presence and especially in Abbottabad. It will also include whether or not any prior information was shared with Pakistani authorities regarding the raid to minimise casualties and the risk of military escalation and whether or not any ground support was available to the invading US kill mission. It will examine why the US opted for a unilateral mission in view of the fact that Pakistan had rendered very significant cooperation in the apprehension of very senior al Qaeda operatives prior to the incident,” he added.
He said the commission’s report would also contain lessons, findings and recommendations to avert any future repetition of such humiliating and outrageous incidents.
“In the light of its findings and analyses the commission will make a series of specific recommendations for securing the future of Pakistan,” Justice (r) Iqbal said.
He assured that the report would be comprehensive, specific and relevant to the challenges confronting the country. To a question about whether the commission would recommend penalties for those found guilty, he said the commission would pinpoint things and it would be for the government to take action.

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