The Abbottabad Commission headed by retired Supreme Court Judge Javed Iqbal, which was set up to investigate the US raid in which Osama bin Laden was killed, has cleared the Pakistan government and military establishment of allegation of having protected the Al Qaeda chief.
The Daily Telegraph in a report by Rob Crilly from Islamabad, quoted a senior official as saying that no-one else in the town knew the world’s most wanted man had taken up residence there.
The commission, the paper said, submitted its report to the government last week. According to the paper, the verdict will prompt accusations of a cover-up and infuriate western diplomats.
The commission has over the past year and a half questioned military officers, Osama bin Laden’s wives and residents of Abbottabad.
The investigation report describes how the daughter of one of Bin Laden’s two couriers, who lived with their families in separate buildings inside the high-walled compound, saw the Al Qaeda leader as she climbed the stairs in the private area for a Quran lesson with one of his wives.
According to the Pakistani source, she was oblivious to his identity until she saw his picture on television some days later.
This prompted a hurried security conference inside the compound, which ended with Bin Laden giving up his exercise routine in a covered part of the courtyard.
His presence in the town of Abbottabad, barely 30 miles from Islamabad, was deeply embarrassing for the Pakistan leadership.
After his death in the raid by US Navy Seals, critics in the US immediately accused Pakistani officials of knowing more about Bin Laden’s presence than they were letting on.
A senior government source told The Telegraph correspondent that they would find few answers in the commission’s report.
“At the end of the day it really doesn’t tell us much more than we already knew,” he said.
“It’s a disappointment for those who thought this episode might represent a turning point for Pakistan’s relationship with extremist groups.”
He added that the investigation had spent more time considering infringements of Pakistan’s sovereignty by the US Seals than probing how such a well-known fugitive evaded detection.
Christine Fair, a Pakistan watcher at Georgetown University, told the newspaper that although leaders of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency might not have known about Bin Laden’s presence, someone among the country’s retired generals, Military Intelligence or local police must have known something.
“If Pakistan had taken this breach of sovereignty – by which I mean the head of Al Qaeda sitting in a cantonment so close to the capital — we should have seen a very vigorous investigation,” she said. “It was a joke”.