Yesterday, on July 08, 2013, Bytes for All, Pakistan received several complaints from credible sources that a number of people living in Pakistan were unable to access prominent news website, Al-Jazeera. After verification and via our internal network, we found these complaints to be true.
Upon further investigation, our team learnt that seeing the government’s past track record with censorship and Internet access issues, a probable cause for the sudden blocking of this website on PTCL services could be the publication of a sensitive document nicknamed ‘Pakistan’s Bin Laden Dossier’.
This critical 336 page report unveils the findings of a commission set up by the Government of Pakistan to investigate as to ”how the US was able to execute a hostile military mission, which lasted around three hours, deep inside Pakistan”, and how Pakistan’s “intelligence establishment apparently had no idea that an international fugitive of the renown or notoriety of [Osama bin Laden] was residing in [Abbottabad]“.
As per the mandate of Access Is My Right! campaign, we condemn this cowardly act of censorship of a document, access to which is a basic right of all citizens of Pakistan.
Additionally, in solidarity with the citizens of Pakistan, AlJazeera has officially provided this report to B4A for dissemination amongst those who are interested in reading it. The report documents can be accessed below:
1 Osama bin Laden’s 10-year stay in Pakistan was a cock-up on the part of Pakistani intelligence, not a conspiracy. The Abbottabad commission said “collective incompetence and negligence” by the intelligence agencies was the main reason the al-Qaida chief remained undetected for so long. However, it could not rule out some degree of “plausibly deniable” support at “some level outside formal structures of the intelligence establishment”.
2 A traffic policeman could have ended the hunt for the world’s most wanted man soon after 2001. Long before Bin Laden and his family moved to Abbottabad he hid in Swat, a region north of Islamabad that was then still popular with tourists. While travelling with one of his two trusted Pakistani henchmen his car was pulled over for speeding. A few words from Bin Laden’s bodyguard “quickly settled the matter”. Bin Laden, who shaved his beard at the time, was simply driven away.
3 Bin Laden was fully aware of the need to hide from US spy satellites. Much has been reported about the difficulty the CIA had in determining whether the tall man pacing around the compound was the al-Qaida chief. He was even in the habit of standing under a grape trellis. One of Bin Laden’s wives, who survived the attack on the compound and was interviewed by the commission, revealed another technique: he wore a wide-brimmed cowboy hat when outside.
4 Osama was a man of frugal tastes. Before coming to Abbottabad he had just six pairs of shalwar qameez, the long-tailed shirt suit that is Pakistan’s national dress – three for summer and three for winter. He also had one jacket and two sweaters. The lack of possessions in the house prompted some Abbottabad locals to tell the inquiry that they did not believe Bin Laden had been at the house for long and that he probably moved between locations.
5 Pakistan suffers from “governance implosion syndrome”. The problem of the country’s dysfunctional and incompetent institutions are vividly illustrated time and again by the report’s authors. Of particular concern is the unwillingness of the ISI, Pakistan’s well-resourced military spy agency, to share important intelligence with the police. The former spy chief Ahmad Shuja Pasha told the commission: “We are a failing state even if we are not yet a failed state.”
6 For the children, life was one of simple pleasures. None of the children were free to go outside the compound, but Bin Laden tried to entertain his grandchildren by encouraging them to compete against each other in tending their vegetable patches. He had less contact with the children of his two trusted Pakistani couriers. Supposedly they were kept in the dark about his true identity and told he never went to the bazaar because he did not have any money for shopping. Thereafter they nicknamed him Miskeen Kaka, or Poor Uncle. His cover was partly blown when one of the children saw him on a news report, prompting an immediate television ban.
7 Abbottabad is home to lots of soldiers – and terrorists. It is often referred to as a “garrison town” because of the presence of Pakistan’s military academy. However, the report makes clear that terrorists also favour it. One resident told the commission that the town was free of terrorist attacks precisely because so many militant families lived there. A house belonging to Abu Faraj al-Libi, a senior al-Qaida commander, was raided less than a mile from Bin Laden’s compound, the report said. Umar Patek, one of the Bali bombers, was caught in Abbottabad in January 2011. The report says it is very likely that he was helped by the same al-Qaida network that assisted Bin Laden, and his interrogation should have turned up “actionable intelligence”.
8 Bin Laden did not pay property taxes and flouted local building regulations. The property was bought using a fake national ID card, the third floor was built illegally and the occupants did not pay taxes. The commission said all of these things should have attracted attention. Local officials blamed negligence, corruption and staff shortages. The report says: “Either OBL was extremely fortunate to not run into anyone [committed] to doing his job honestly, or there was a complete collapse of local governance.”
9 Pakistan’s spies deeply distrust their US counterparts. The evidence given by Pakistan’s former spy chief contains fascinating insights into how the ISI views the Americans. According to Pasha, the “main agenda of the CIA was to have the ISI declared a terrorist organisation”. He did not think the CIA refused to share intelligence with the ISI because they did not trust their Pakistani counterparts, but because the US wanted to deny Pakistan the credit for nabbing the world’s most wanted man.
10 More details of apparent CIA activity in Abbottabad. These “ground assets” could have included personnel to guide the US special forces helicopters to the house. The report said “suspicious activities” included the cutting down of trees to clear the approach of the helicopters and the renting of a nearby house for people supposedly working for the United States Agency for International Development. Vehicles from the US embassy in Islamabad were spotted heading towards Abbottabad shortly before the raid.