Omissions and commissions

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Mian Nawaz Sharif has warned that he will join the people of Pakistan if they take to the streets to oust the government. He demanded that either the government mend its ways or the public’s frustrations could lead to dire consequences. “I would like to ask the prime minister what has happened to our demand for the setting up of an independent commission to probe the Abbottabad incident.

You are a product of parliament but it appears that you have no worries about protecting the country’s sovereignty,” said Mr Sharif. The question regarding the Abbottabad Commission is a valid one. The US carried out a unilateral raid in Abbottabad on Osama bin Laden’s compound on May 2. Parliament had a joint session on May 13 after which a resolution was passed whereby it was decided that a commission would be set up to probe what happened that night and how OBL was able to hide in Pakistan for so long. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani says Nawaz Sharif’s impatience regarding setting up the commission stems from his partisan advocacy of only his party’s point of view, whereas the government wants to take all the parties with it on the composition of the commission so that it proves credible and acceptable to all.

From all accounts, the list of suitable candidates for the commission has not yet been finalised. For Mian Nawaz Sharif, the only way out of this maze is to go into attack mode. The PML-N has put forward a list of possible candidates for the commission, but it is unreasonable to insist on that list without taking the views of all parties into account. On the other hand, this should not become an excuse for not proceeding with, or unnecessarily delaying, the formation of the commission.It would be wise for the government to accelerate the setting up of the Abbottabad Commission. The people have a right to know what really happened. This is too important an issue to play politics with. If the world’s most wanted terrorist was able to hide inside the country, that too near the Pakistan Military Academy, without anyone’s knowledge, then that in itself is the greatest violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and a major intelligence and security failure. And if Osama was hiding here with the collusion of some officials, then they should be exposed and taken to task. The PML-N had rightly suggested that an independent commission (if not a judicial commission) should investigate the events leading up to May 2. A military commission would not have presented its findings in public and there was also a fear of a cover up.

Some members of the PML-N have even threatened that the party would quit the National Assembly if the government does not respond to their demands. In such an unlikely event, the chances of a mid-term election cannot be ruled out. But so far, it does not seem as if Mian Nawaz Sharif has taken the final decision to try and dislodge the government. Not only does he support the democratic process but he went one step further and said, “Mistakes can be identified and rectified in democracy.” The PML-N’s stance on democracy is quite clear. Mian sahib has learned from past mistakes and does not want the military establishment to take advantage of political rifts between the PPP and the PML-N like they did in the 90s. Mr Sharif would rather this government complete its tenure than support any unconstitutional move. On the other hand, if the government does not deliver, the opposition is bound to put pressure on it. This could affect the PPP’s chances in the next general elections. So, instead of taking the PML-N’s genuine demands lightly and dismissing them as some sort of a political ploy, the PPP government needs to seriously address the Abbottabad issue by setting up a credible, independent commission at the earliest. – Dailytimes