In the wake of the American raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in 2011, the Pakistani government formed what came to be known as the Abbottabad Commission. Its mission: to investigate two security lapses, one more embarrassing and indicative of incompetence than the other. One, how did U.S. forces violate Pakistan’s sovereignty with such impunity? Two, how did bin Laden manage to spend over a decade in Pakistan undetected?
In a report published July 9 by AlJazeera, Asad Hashim does an outstanding job of summarizing the leaked report. He writes:
During the course of its investigation, the Commission found “a shocking state of affairs”, where local governance had completely collapsed, as had the ability of the military, intelligence and security services to perform their jobs.
After reading Hashim’s account, one can’t help but conclude that local authorities were demoralized by how the army and ISI lorded it over them. That was illustrated by how they were elbowed aside after the raid at Abbottabad. For its part, the ISI seemed to lose interest in searching for bin Laden both because it believed him dead and because, at a certain point, the United States discontinued sharing information about its search for him.
Meanwhile, the report, as quoted by Hashim, states (emphasis added):
“[Osama bin Laden] was able to stay [in Abbottabad] due to a collective failure of the military authorities, the intelligence authorities, the police and the civilian administration. This failure included negligence and incompetence and at some undetermined level, a grave complicity may or may not have been involved.”
One aspect of ensuring cooperation and cementing complicity is, of course, corruption. That rears its head in a sidebar to Hashim’s article titled “Local officials missed a number of signs that may have led to Bin Laden’s discovery in Abbottabad.” Among them: “Land for house bought using fake ID that was never checked. … Lack of building construction completion certificate never investigated. … Unauthorised additional construction carried out, without local officials inspecting the building or requesting permits be sought.”
Hashim further explains:
The head of the Abbottabad Cantonment Board admitted that his body had been “negligent” in the case, but added that “a lot of illegal construction activity took place within the Cantonment area”, according to the Commission’s report.
What’s emphasized suggests someone was being paid off. The flashiest red flag? “Property tax unpaid for six years and never checked.” Odds are the municipality of Abbottabad wasn’t passing up opportunities to extract money from an affluent residence. If the city wasn’t being paid officially, it seems likely that local officials were being paid off in many of those cases — in bin Laden’s, no doubt via Ibrahim and Abrar al-Kuwaiti, his “couriers,” who might better be called guards and/or fixers.
The alternative, of course, is that the military and ISI knew of bin Laden’s presence and warned local officials to lay off. That would have been in accordance with their policy (changing, apparently) of using Pakistan as a Petri dish to cultivate Islamist militants to harass India. Tolerating the most successful example of an Islamist militant in their midst may also have been their way of sticking it to the United States.
Hashim encapsulates the situation:
The failure was so complete that, by page 87 of its report, the Commission … was forced to coin a term for it: “Governance Implosion Syndrome”.
But who are we in the United States to point fingers? We had our own “Governance Implosion Syndrome.” It’s called 9/11.