EDITORIAL: Come clean on Osama’s killing - Thursday, May 05, 2011

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\05\05\story_5-5-2011_pg3_1

US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Leon Panetta has irritated Pakistan by asserting that information about the operation was not shared with Pakistan for fear that it would compromise the operation. Talking to BBC, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir defended Pakistan by saying it had played a pivotal role in hunting down Osama by sharing intelligence about the suspicious compound and the presence of foreigners in Abbottabad with the US. However, these claims have not been confirmed by US officials or independent sources. CIA director’s statement reflects the deep mistrust the US has about Pakistan. This comes at a time when the world is questioning failure of Pakistan’s intelligence apparatus in tracking down such a high value target close to its main military academy. Pakistan’s intelligence agencies have admitted failure and expressed embarrassment over this huge lapse, where the security outfits could not investigate and established the identity of the residents of a heavily guarded compound located close to the Kakul Military Academy. Although Prime Minister Gilani has tried to defend this intelligence failure by saying that it was the failure of the entire world, this has done little to satisfy the world. In fact, there is so much suspicion about Pakistan’s double dealing when it comes to al Qaeda and Taliban that the world is not ready to believe that sections of Pakistan’s security establishment did not know where Osama was hiding. Some international media outlets have gone so far as to claim that Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies are complicit in providing a safe haven to the al Qaeda chief. The domestic media of Pakistan is churning out an entirely different story, and has constructed different mosaics by putting together varied pieces of scant information and giving them interpretations that have more to do with the imagination of their respective media anchors than reality. Most of these interpretations deny that Osama was killed on May 2 attack by the US. The alternative explanation given is that the US enacted this high-strung drama to ensure President Obama’s re-election, or subdue Pakistan to maintain US presence on its soil, or gain control of Pakistan’s nuclear assets. Even if we accept Pakistan’s innocence, this gives rise to another concern: the incapacity of Pakistan’s military and intelligence to track down Osama.

Contrary to Pakistan’s claims, security experts believe that such an operation could not be carried out without informing Pakistan’s security apparatus, which means that information was exchanged only at the last moment to allow safe passage to US helicopters (given Panetta’s assertion), but Pakistan did not participate in the actual operation. In fact, due to the high security nature of the operation, it is likely that very few people knew about it even in the US administration. Pakistan’s media has raised questions that if surveillance of the compound was going on for the last 10 months, why the US administration waited so long to take out the target? There was obviously some constraint despite 10 months of suspicion and surveillance, which must be shared with the public.

This calls for an authoritative statement on the part of the Pakistani government/military. If prime minister, president or some other responsible institution gave an immediate and considered version of what happened, the speculations and accusations flying thick and fast could have been contained. Pakistan government has decided to investigate the intelligence failure for not being able to track down Osama as well as, ostensibly, for not being able to track the US incursion into Pakistan’s territory, to justify claims they were completely unaware. It would be in the interest of Pakistan to come clean and present facts of the matter for the public and the world. Without doing this, we will be further isolated from the world and Pakistan’s public will remain mired in conspiracies and false notions of victimisations at the hands of the US. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Pak-France economic ties

In order to create a joint business council to promote the level of mutual trade, Pakistan and France signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on May 4, which is the first success of Prime Minister Gilani’s visit to France. The MoU was inked between Pakistan Business Council and the Council of the French Enterprises (MEDEF) comprising the entire gamut of the French industry. The meeting of Pakistan’s delegation with MEDEF focused on the problems faced by foreign investors in Pakistan and their possible solutions. Major areas of concern expressed by the French entrepreneurs were taxes imposed by Pakistan’s government on total investment, which were a deterrent for foreign investment; lack of an even playing field with locally produced items; security situation in Pakistan and energy crisis that is affecting business and industry. The Pakistani officials have asked the French to give proposals on taxes and duties, which could be address in the upcoming budget. As far as security and energy situation are concerned, these are not just hindering foreign investment but are a source of decline of local industry as well. Although Pakistan’s officials have tried to satisfy their hosts with bright prospects of Iran-Pakistan and Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline and tapping of alternative energy, the ground situation in Pakistan does not inspire much confidence. Same is the case with the security situation. Each province has its own unique problems of security, which is deteriorating rather than improving. Incidents of kidnapping of workers of foreign companies have forced many of them to shut down their operations and leave. Let alone foreign companies, even domestic investors are shifting their capital elsewhere. Therefore, the French can hope to invest only in sectors that are considered safe for investment and whose operations are located in relatively safer areas. The case of terrorist killing of 11 French technicians, who were jointly working on building sub-marines with their Pakistani counterparts, in 2002 in Karachi, is still alive in the French media. Arguably, the situation has deteriorated since then instead of improving. It is doubtful that without addressing these grave concerns, Pakistan would be able to attract much of French investment.

However, on a positive note one can say that prime minister’s visit has bridged the communication gap and promoted contacts between businesses, which might translate into future business ventures, despite the above-mentioned hurdles. The situation of Pakistan’s economy warrants that it seeks whatever help is possible. *

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