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Questions Remain After Pakistan’s Independent Probe into Bin Laden Case

BY Abid Khurshid  May 16, 2011 at 2:56 PM EST

Pakistani soldiers (Farooq Naeem/AFP/Getty Images)

Yielding to increasing pressure from inside and outside of the country, Pakistan’s parliament has ordered an independent probe into the U.S. operation to kill al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Bin Laden’s presence and killing in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2 — in a fortified home just five minutes away from a military academy — raised questions about what the Pakistani military knew, and whether any investigation would yield public results.

Initially, Pakistani officials said the military would conduct its own review, which led to a public outcry. Some analysts said it was the first time in Pakistan’s history that the largest opposition party, civil society and the media had so vocally questioned the military and its investigations.

“I’ve never seen such scathing criticism of the military so openly,” said Moeed Yusuf, U.S. Institute of Peace’s South Asia adviser, who returned to Washington on Wednesday after a visit to Pakistan. “Everyone was asking how this can happen.”

After a week, and a meeting with military and intelligence officials behind closed doors, Pakistan’s parliament approved the independent commission-led inquiry. The resolution approved Saturday says the government will appoint an independent commission to look into the operation, “fix responsibility and recommend necessary measures to ensure that such an incident does not recur.”

“This is certainly much better than an Army investigation, which is like the institution under fire investigating itself,” said Yusuf, adding that many questions still remain, such as who will make up the independent commission.

According to the resolution, leaders of the House and opposition will determine the commission’s makeup.

Nawaz Sharif, the head of the country’s main opposition group — the Pakistan Muslim League-N — has called for an independent judicial commission review into what the Army knew of the bin Laden raid.

The chairman of the party, Raja Zaffar Ul Haq, told the NewsHour that at first they considered a parliamentary “select committee” made up of different parties, but then decided a free and fair judicial commission including the chief justice of Pakistan, chief justices of five high courts and other reputable people from society would be better. He said he has high hopes that Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani meant what he said that the opposition would be consulted on the commission.

An investigation also should include how bin Laden was able to live in Abbottabad for years undetected, and why the Pakistan army did not react during the raid, Zaffar Ul Haq said.

But some inside Pakistan still have doubts that an independent commission, even with judicial representation, would yield results.

Ayesha Siddiqua, a political analyst and author of Military Inc., told the NewsHour that other political parties are pulling for the Army, which would detract from efforts to create an independent commission.

She also pointed to an example from Pakistan’s past of a problematic independent review. In 1971, the independent Hamoodur Rahman commission was directed by the Pakistani government to investigate alleged crimes during the war to liberate East Pakistan, which later became Bangladesh. The findings reportedly were critical of the Pakistani military and politicians and remained classified.

Umar Chemma, a Pakistani investigative journalist working for the English newspaper The News, told the NewsHour that the government yielded to pressure from political parties, civil society and the media when it decided to conduct the independent review, and now faces mounting public pressure for an investigation that is transparent.

Abid Khurshid is a visiting journalist from Pakistan. View all of the NewsHour’s World coverage and follow us on Twitter.