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Intelligence

Leaked bin Laden inquiry a 'humiliation'

After the killing of Osama bin Laden, Pakistan's government set up a commission to investigate the ordeal. Now that their report has been leaked, Hasnain Kazim tells DW about the fuss surrounding it.

DW: Are there any ideas about who could have leaked the inquiry to al Jazeera?

Hasnain Kazim: There is no concrete information on that just now but there are a number of people within the establishment - in the military and the secret service and also in government who are very unhappy with the way the bin Laden incident was handled. The Americans criticized that there was very little self-criticism and that bin Laden was able to go undetected for so long and that the whole story was eventually swept under the rug. There are a whole lot of people who could have leaked the report - people who have access to it. But who it was, no one knows that yet.

How has Pakistan taken it? What is the media saying about it?

The media is covering it quite a bit. The newspapers are full of talk about it today - front page news. They are reporting a lot of information from the inquiry itself, which was published nearly full-length by al Jazeera. People are amazed by all the details, for example that bin Laden was stopped by a police officer for speeding in SWAT Valley as his car was driving him back from a bazaar. The police did not recognize him at that time because he didn't have a beard, so they got away.

All of these details are now out and people are talking about them. For example, the fact that he wore a cowboy hat when he was in the garden at his house in Abbottabad so as to avoid being photographed by satellites. Surprisingly, people here are also heavily criticizing the secret service and the military and people also see that the inquiry is very critical of its own government, military and secret service.

There is a lot of talk of "humiliation" in the report. In your article for Spiegel Online, you wrote that it was a humiliation that the report was leaked. But the report itself is very critical of the Pakistani establishment and really highlights the incompetence thereof. Which is the largest humiliation?

Hasnain Kazim Spiegel Korrespondent (Photo: Hasnain Kazim)

'The entire story is a humiliation'

The entire story is a humiliation, both the fact that bin Laden was secretly living in Pakistan for so many years and that the information got out. The Pakistani government always maintained bin Laden was not in Pakistan, that he was not here and whoever claimed such things was only trying to give Pakistan a bad rap. That was all refuted in the middle of the night on May 2, 2011, when bin Laden was killed.

And after the US killed him, authorities continued to claim he was never here. Even today, there are people, especially in Abbottabad and the surrounding area, who say that it wasn't bin Laden who was killed. They say there are no photos, there is no proof it was him. But it is a fact that al Qaeda, the organization of which bin Laden was the head, admitted their chief was dead. It is also a fact that there were three widows who were arrested and taken in for questioning and who were then deported to Saudi Arabia. They confirmed that it was bin Laden who was killed. So there is hardly any doubt about that.

And the question remains - and it has not been answered by the inquiry - whether bin Laden had any help and if so, then who helped him within the government and the military. Or if it was really just pure incompetence that allowed him to go for so long unnoticed in Pakistan. The inquiry insinuates it was the latter.

But the inquiry also states it is possible he had help. And it does seem likely he did have help being as he was in Pakistan for so long. And Pakistan is a country which otherwise has very strict controls. People travelling through the garrison town of Abbottabad are constantly stopped and checked. There are people who have their eyes and ears all over the place. So there is reason enough to believe that he had people helping him and the report states that. But it doesn't name any names and in the end it doesn't provide any proof.

What will this mean for the new government? How will the inquiry be dealt with?

The report really puts pressure on the government to continue to try and find out who else is here [in Pakistan]. There are a number of high-ranking and internationally wanted terrorists who run around freely here. And no one knows how many of them there are. There is the assumption that they have been in Pakistan for a while, for example Mullah Omar, the chief of the Afghan Taliban, and a number of high-ranking al Qaeda operatives. So the inquiry increases pressure.

The government must explain itself, it must give a statement on the report and explain how it was possible for all these mistakes to happen and how it came to this collective failure. But I am afraid, as far as I know the Pakistani government, that they will probably just wait for it all to blow over and wait for people to forget about it - that there will not be many consequences. If there are going to be consequences at all, I am guessing it will be with lower-ranking police, military and ISI personnel. But when it comes to the top-tiers, the people with the power, I don't think there will be any consequences.

You quoted the ex-chief of the secret service, ISI, Ahmed Pasha, as saying: "Pakistan is a failing state, if we have not failed already." That is a very dark thing to say …

Yes, it certainly is dark statement, especially as it was made by the former ISI chief and he has a very good idea of how things work. He basically summarizes the sentiment among the people in the establishment who do not see a positive future for the country. I agree with the report findings that there are many people, especially in the military, who cooperate with Islamist extremists.

But there are also a number of Western-minded elements there. This statement really highlights the power struggle within the military. The question is what is a "failed state?" Surely his was a dismal statement. On the short term, though, I don't see the state "failing," for example, due to extremists taking over power. On the contrary, there was an election not long ago that went relatively well, with a relatively small amount of irregularities. That was, especially for Pakistan, quite good. So there really is no reason to believe that extremists could gain power any time soon.

Hasnain Kazim is the South Asia correspondent for the German magazine Spiegel and Spiegel Online and is currently based in Islamabad.

Interview conducted by Sarah Berning

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