Faced with questions about Pakistan's commitment in battling terrorism, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Monday asserted in Parliament “the war against terrorism is our own national priority'' and described the ISI as a “national asset'' which has full support of the government.
Though the address was billed as an attempt by the government to take the nation into confidence about the “dead-of-the-night'' U.S. operation to get al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Mr. Gilani did not provide anything more than what is already in public domain by way of details.
However, he held out the possibility of disclosing more details to legislators by announcing that a joint session of Parliament would be convened where “concerned services authorities in the armed forces'' would provide an in camera briefing. In a related statement, the Inter Services Public Relations said Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had requested Mr. Gilani to “consider convening'' a joint session of Parliament for briefing on the security issues related to the “Abbottabad incident''.
Speaking to officers at Rawalpindi, Kharian and Sialkot garrisons exclusively about the Abbottabad incident, General Kayani noted that public despondency had been aggravated by insufficient formal response. So, it was felt that the nation must be taken into confidence through “their honourable elected representatives''. Also, he said the strength of democracy must be put into effect to develop consensus on important security issues. “Articulation of a national response through Parliament, under the circumstances, is the most effective way to let the world know the historic achievements of Pakistan against al-Qaeda and its terror affiliates.''
About bin Laden's presence in Abbottabad, Mr. Gilani's explanation was that asymmetrical warfare had happened to be the tool in vogue against superior conventional forces. “Terrorism falls in that category… Hiding in plain sight, as is evident in this case, is perhaps another technique that could be attributed to bin Laden in the realm of asymmetrical intelligence.''
Referring to the anger within about the violation of Pakistan's sovereignty by the covert U.S. air and ground assault on bin Laden's hideout, the Prime Minister said this had raised questions about the country's defence capability and security of strategic assets. While claiming that Pakistan had responded in time, he admitted that the U.S. had succeeded in evading the radar systems and warned that such unilateralism runs the inherent risk of serious consequences. “Suppose the operation had gone wrong. A U.S. helicopter was abandoned and destroyed on the site. This is a small though important reminder of the risks in such operations.''
Reiterating that no wrong conclusions ought to be drawn from this incident, Mr. Gilani warned that any attack on Pakistan's strategic assets – overt or covert – would find a matching response. “Pakistan reserves the right to retaliate with full force. No one should underestimate the resolve and capability of our nation and armed forces to defend our sacred homeland.''