ISLAMABAD: Following is the text of the statement submitted by Husain Haqqani, former Pakistan ambassador to US, before the Abbottabad Commission.
“I was serving as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States when the Abbottabad incident took place.
I was on my way to Islamabad via London and Dubai when the operation took place and I first found out about it upon landing at Heathrow airport in the early morning of May 2. I was instructed to immediately turn around, which I did, and returned to Washington by around 5pm local time.
My instructions were to ensure that the US government, Congress and media do not blame Pakistan’s government, armed forces or intelligence services for allowing Osama bin Laden’s presence in the country, as that would have been a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1267 and 1373.
I was also to protest the violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty by US forces in conducting the operation and to point out how that violated the norms of international conduct between two sovereign countries.
Over the next few days, I faithfully and diligently carried out my instructions. I met with the US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan and the Deputy National Security Adviser of the President of the United States to register protest over violation of Pakistani sovereignty. Under my instructions, officers of the embassy met their respective counterpart officials in the US government to do the same.
I also protested reports in the US media, attributed to US officials and members of Congress, that Pakistan was somehow complicit or responsible in bin Laden’s stay in Pakistan. Cypher telegrams comprising record of these meetings were duly sent to the Foreign Office in Islamabad.
For their part, the US officials were intransigent and even threatening in their tone, another fact that I informed Islamabad of in official communications. They were not only unwilling to apologise for violating Pakistani sovereignty but demanded that Pakistan cooperate in giving access to data and persons found from the house in Abbottabad where the raid was conducted. They also demanded the return of the wreckage of the stealth helicopter that had been damaged and left behind during the operation.
A few days later, the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan and the Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency visited Islamabad for discussions with all branches of the government. During the same time, I was also asked to be present in Islamabad for consultations.
On May 2, the President of the UN Security Council had issued the following statement:
‘Security Council Presidential Statement, Welcoming End of Osama bin Laden’s Ability to Perpetrate Terrorist Acts, Urges States to Remain Vigilant
Recalling the ‘heinous’ terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 in New York, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania, as well as the numerous attacks perpetrated by the al-Qaeda network around the world, the Security Council welcomed today the news that Osama bin Laden would never again be able to perpetrate such acts of terrorism.
In a statement read out by GÈrard Araud (France), its President for May, the Council recognised that critical development and other accomplishments made in the fight against terrorism while urging all States to ‘remain vigilant’ and intensify their efforts in that fight. It also reaffirmed that terrorism could not and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilisation or group.
Expressing its deepest condolences to the victims of terrorism and their families, the Council stressed the need for the full implementation of all its resolutions and statements on terrorism, notably resolutions 1267 (1999), 1373 (2001), 1624 (2005), 1963 (2010) and 1904 (2009), as well as other applicable international counter-terrorism instruments.
Calling for enhanced cooperation in that regard, the Council reaffirmed its call on all states to work together urgently to bring to justice the perpetrators, organisers and sponsors of terrorist attacks, and its determination that those responsible for aiding, supporting or harbouring such actors would be held accountable. States must ensure that any measures taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law.
Stressing that no cause or grievance could justify the murder of innocent people, and that terrorism would not be defeated exclusively by military force, law enforcement and intelligence measures, the Council stated that terrorism could only be defeated by a sustained, comprehensive approach involving all states, relevant international and regional organisations and civil society to address the conditions conducive to its spread, and to impede, impair, isolate and incapacitate the terrorist threat.
The full text of presidential statement S/PRST/2011/9 reads as follows: ‘The Security Council recalls its resolutions regarding Osama bin Laden, and its condemnation of the al-Qaeda network and other associated terrorist groups for the multiple criminal terrorist acts aimed at causing the deaths of numerous innocent civilians and the destruction of property.
‘The Security Council also recalls the heinous terrorist attacks which took place on 11 September 2001 in New York, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania, and the other numerous attacks perpetrated by the network throughout the world.
‘In this regard, the Security Council welcomes the news on 1 May 2011 that Osama bin Laden will never again be able to perpetrate such acts of terrorism, and reaffirms that terrorism cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilisation or group.
‘The Security Council recognises this critical development and other accomplishments made in the fight against terrorism and urges all states to remain vigilant and intensify their efforts in the fight against terrorism. The Security Council expresses once again its deepest sympathy and condolences to the victims of terrorism and their families.
‘The Security Council reaffirms the importance of all its resolutions and statements on terrorism, in particular resolutions 1267 (1999), 1373 (2001), 1624 (2005), 1963 (2010) and 1904 (2009), as well as other applicable international counter-terrorism instruments, stresses the need for their full implementation and calls for enhanced cooperation in this regard.
‘The Security Council further reaffirms its call on all states to work together urgently to bring to justice the perpetrators, organisers and sponsors of terrorist attacks, and its determination that those responsible for aiding, supporting or harbouring the perpetrators, organisers and sponsors of these acts will be held accountable.
‘The Security Council reaffirms that member states must ensure that any measures taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law.
‘The Security Council stresses that no cause or grievance can justify the murder of innocent people and that terrorism will not be defeated by military force, law enforcement measures and intelligence operations alone, and can only be defeated by a sustained and comprehensive approach involving the active participation and collaboration of all states and relevant international and regional organisations and civil society to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism and to impede, impair, isolate and incapacitate the terrorist threat.’
US officials pointed to UNSC resolutions and this statement by the Security Council President to justify their unilateral action in Abbottabad in disregard of Pakistani sovereignty.
I may add that while in Pakistan, violation of our sovereignty was seen as the principal issue, in the US everyone in and out of US government was focused on Osama bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad.
As such, the task before the Pakistan embassy in Washington was to ensure that the negative mood in the US does not result in aggressive sanctions or restrictions on Pakistan by the US Congress.
Over the next several days, I appeared on numerous US television and radio programmes, addressed several think tanks and met with dozens of US Congressmen and Senators to give them the Pakistani perspective and to defend our institutions of state against charges of violating UN resolutions and providing sanctuary to the al-Qaeda leader or turning a blind eye to his presence in the country.
At the same time, our embassy continued to relay the Pakistani sentiment about US violating our sovereignty and conducting a stealth attack inside our territory.
The record of every meeting with US officials, Congressmen, and Senators as well as details of my efforts and that of my team were duly sent to the Foreign Office in cypher telegrams or by fax and the commission may requisition the same.
Visas for US Officials:
One of the subjects that have received much attention in the Pakistan media is the allegation that somehow the Pakistani embassy in Washington DC gave unauthorised visas to US officials, especially intelligence operatives.
Different media reports cite different figures ranging from a low of 4000 to a high of 16,000 resulting in an urban myth. Let me state clearly for the record that these wild allegations are totally baseless and refuted completely by the official record.
The embassy of Pakistan in Washington DC NEVER issued unauthorised visas in the three years and five months that I served as ambassador.
At no stage did any government department, including Inter-Services Intelligence, Ministry of Interior or the Joint Services Headquarters (JSHQ) that deal with security aspects relating to visas write to the embassy or the ambassador recording the allegations that have been published in the media and publicised by some political personalities.
In fact, the official record will show that the embassy was very conservative in issuing visas and at one point (from April to June 2010) held back issuing any official visas because clearance from Islamabad had not been received. This created a backlog and also resulted in a political issue with the US government that was resolved by the Prime Minister authorising the ambassador some discretion in issuing visas vide his letter dated July 14, 2010.
Even after the issuance of this authorisation, the embassy continued to refer visa applications of US officials from military and allied branches to the respective security agencies.
Only twice did I receive any official communication questioning the issuance of visas.
The first was dated January 6, 2011 based on the DCC’s expression of concern resulting from media reports, which I replied in detail on January 18, 2011 along with annexures. (My letter along with annexures is attached herewith.) No further criticism or concern was reported back by the Foreign Office after receipt of my explanation.
On February 19, 2011 the Foreign Office forwarded a letter from JSHQ listing 72 US military personnel who received visas but about whom the JSHQ did not appear to have records. I responded to that letter on March 11, pointing out that the 72 persons listed in the JSHQ letter were all members of US military delegations and their visas were either requested by or authorised by the Defence Wing of the embassy.
The JSHQ’s response to that letter confirmed that the embassy had not acted irresponsibly or without authorisation. (These letters are also attached herewith).
A table showing how the total number of visas issued from Washington for US officials did not increase in any dramatic way over the last few years is also attached. The embassy in Washington was not privy to information about visas issued to US officials in third countries, if any.
The US and Pakistan have a very difficult relationship that has been further complicated by the strong sentiments aroused by violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty by the United States on May 2 as well as before and after.
Public opinion in Pakistan is strongly unfavourable towards the US. Similarly, a recent opinion poll shows that 55% of Americans deem Pakistan an enemy while only 7% see us as a friend. (26% did not consider Pakistan a friend or enemy and 12% did not have an opinion).
Under such circumstances, anyone tasked with the job of representing Pakistan in the United States faces a tough and thankless assignment. Everything he/she says to win friends and influence people favourably in the US plays into the hands of those agitating against the US in Pakistan.
The Pakistani representative is then cast as going against the wishes and sentiments of the Pakistani people.
On the other hand, the conduct of foreign policy and diplomacy cannot be based only on opinion and incorrect information repeated in the media.
In the aftermath of May 1-2, my embassy and I acted fully in accordance with my directions as received from the Foreign Ministry. The voluminous record of our correspondence with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should serve as evidence thereof.”