ISLAMABAD — Pakistan on Tuesday ordered an investigation to discover “the full facts” of how Osama bin Laden lived undetected, likely for years, on its soil until being killed in a US commando raid on May 2.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani announced that an independent commission would probe the circumstances of the Al-Qaeda chief’s presence in Abbottabad, a garrison town north of Islamabad, where he was gunned down by US Navy SEALs.
The unveiling of an investigation into the episode, which threw ties between allies Pakistan and the United States into turmoil, follows demands from lawmakers in Washington and Islamabad for disclosure on the bin Laden affair.
The commission will comprise a five member panel headed by Justice Javed Iqbal, a senior judge of the Supreme Court, and is mandated “to ascertain the full facts regarding the presence of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.”
Gilani’s office said the probe would also “investigate circumstances and facts regarding the US operation in Abbottabad,” where bin Laden is said to have lived with wives and aides for years until his discovery and killing.
The revelation that the world’s most-wanted man was living just a stone’s throw from a top military academy raised new questions about complicity or incompetence within the Pakistani military and security services.
“The commission shall determine the nature, background and causes of lapses of the concerned authorities… and shall make consequential recommendations,” Gilani’s office said.
Pakistan has suffered a wave of fresh attacks this month, with the country’s main Taliban faction claiming hits on domestic and American targets to avenge bin Laden’s killing.
Lawmakers in Islamabad earlier this month urged the government to appoint an independent group to probe how bin Laden had been able to hide out so close to the capital and whether government or military collusion had played a part.
They said any such investigation must also find out how US forces entered and then left Pakistani airspace apparently undetected in an incursion that caused outrage among the civilian population.
Members of parliament threatened to withdraw logistical cooperation for US troops based in Afghanistan and condemned CIA-operated drone strikes in the wake of the helicopter-borne assault that culminated in bin Laden’s death.
Pakistan’s opposition leader Nawaz Sharif recently demanded that the government establish a judicial commission into bin Laden, rejecting an internal military probe earlier ordered by the state.
“This commission should ascertain the full facts of Osama bin Laden’s presence and the American operation in Pakistan,” Sharif, a two-time former prime minister, told a press conference in Islamabad on May 11.
Premier Gilani earlier announced that a lieutenant general would head an inquiry “to get to the bottom of how, when and why” bin Laden had been hiding in Abbottabad, barely two hours’ drive from Islamabad.
Pakistanis have been furious at the perceived impunity of the US raid, while asking whether their military was too incompetent to know bin Laden was living close to a large military academy, or, worse, conspired to protect him.
US President Barack Obama has also pressed Pakistan to probe how bin Laden managed to survive for years under the noses of Islamabad’s military, saying that the terror chief must have had some kind of local support network.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, visiting Pakistan on Friday, said the United States had “absolutely no evidence” that anyone at the highest level of government knew where bin Laden had been hiding and that she would return to Washington “ever more committed” to the relationship.