Pakistan Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani finally spoke to the parliament of Pakistan (and really to the world) to respond to last week’s US military operation to get Osama Bin Laden. As I have argued elsewhere, it was too late and maybe is too little. But I am glad that he has spoken.
Just as this week has been a moment on jubilation for the United States, it has been a moment of introspection for Pakistan. Introspection is never comfortable, but when done honestly it is nearly always beneficial. I do hope that this will lead to honest introspection.
Whether it will or nor, we will not know for a little while still. We will know it from the actions the government takes, and not just from words. But words are often a good place to start. I do not wish to rush into judgment just yet and want to first digest exactly what the Prime Minister said, and what it will mean in practice. At an immediate glance it should lead to at least a few conversations in and beyond the parliament that are very unusual for Pakistan. Conversations that will raise questions about the government’s as well as the military’s performance. It is not a bad thing that these conversations will happen. I just hope they will happen honestly.
I will await details, and hopefully a full text, of the Prime Minister’s speech. Until that comes, here are two preliminary news reports. According to Dawn:
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Monday that his country was not the birthplace of al Qaeda and could not be held accountable alone for the creation of the terror network. While addressing the Parliament, the prime minister said that Pakistan has full confidence in its military and intelligence and widespread allegations of official complicity or incompetence over Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad hideout were “absurd”.
Gilani told Parliament that the country was “united in our resolve to eliminate terrorism” and determined not to allow its soil to be used for militancy. Gilani said unilateral actions such as the US Navy SEALs swoop on Obama’s hideout run the risk of serious consequences, but added Pakistan attached high importance to its relations with Washington.
And here is the initial report in The Express Tribune:
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Monday said the leadership of the armed forces will give an in-camera briefing to a joint session of parliament regarding the Osama bin Laden operation on May 13. An investigation has been ordered into how Osama bin Laden was able to live in the garrison city of Abbottabad undetected, Gilani told parliament.
The prime minister said that the media “spin masters” were reporting a false divide with the state institutions and that there was no military and civil divide in Pakistan. He rejected allegations that the killing of Bin Laden by US troops showed Pakistani incompetence or complicity in the al Qaeda leader’s presence in the country.
“Allegations of complicity or incompetence are absurd,” Gilani told parliament, adding that it was disingenuous for anyone to accuse Pakistan, including its spy agency, of “being in cahoots” with the al Qaeda network. “ISI is a national asset and has full support of the government,” Gilani said. “It was the ISI that passed key leads to CIA which enabled US intelligence to use superior technological assets to carry out the operation.”
“Yes, there has been an intelligence failure. It’s not only ours, but all the agencies of the world,” he said. Gilani said unilateral action such as the US Navy SEALs raiding Osama’s hideout run the risk of serious consequences. Gilani added that Pakistan attached high importance to its relations with Washington.
The Prime Minister also said that Pakistan’s relationships with other countries, including its neighbours, were in a good state. Pakistan has confidence in its military and intelligence services Gilani said, despite the discovery that Osama Bin Laden had been living in the country undetected.
Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Nawaz), had earlier demanded a full investigation into the breakdown in intelligence and for the government to accept any responsibilities that may be unearthed, a spokesman said.
“Our party will react very strongly if we come to a conclusion that the speech was nothing but an eyewash,” Siddiqul Farooq told AFP. “We want a serious probe to fix responsibility for an intelligence failure and objective steps that such negligence is not repeated in future,” he said.