Pakistan wants bin Laden family held for now

Updated: 2011-07-06 14:19
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ISLAMABAD - A Pakistani commission investigating the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden has ordered the government to prevent the al-Qaida chief's wives and children from leaving Pakistan without its permission.

The late Tuesday order was directed in part at Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency, which tends to operate beyond civilian control - a sign that the commission was taking advantage of the unusual public pressure on the security establishment since the raid to push its investigation forward.

But whether the security agencies will pay heed to the panel's demands remains to be seen. Pakistan's history is riddled with commissions and inquiries that accomplished little to nothing - or whose findings were never released to the public - partly due to the military and spy agencies' interference.

Three of bin Laden's wives and several children have been detained since the May 2 American raid on the terror leader's compound in the northwest Pakistani garrison city of Abbottabad. In recent days, Pakistani authorities indicated they were about to send the youngest wife to her native country, Yemen.

Pakistan wants bin Laden family held for now

The unilateral US operation infuriated Pakistanis who saw it as a violation of their country's sovereignty. At the same time, US lawmakers were outraged to learn that bin Laden had managed to hide, apparently for years, in a city that is home to a top Pakistani military academy.

The al-Qaida leader's discovery has raised suspicions that elements of Pakistan's armed forces or intelligence services aided bin Laden, but US officials have said they've seen no evidence that Pakistan's top civilian or military leaders knew of his whereabouts.

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The establishment of the commission came after pressure from lawmakers, especially in the opposition, who did not want the military to carry out its own probe. The panel is headed by a Supreme Court justice, but it also includes a retired general and representatives from the police and diplomatic community.

The commission is charged with investigating how bin Laden managed to hide in Abbottabad for so long, and the circumstances surrounding the US operation. Its first meeting, held Tuesday, was not open to the public or the press.

According to a statement late Tuesday, the group promised a thorough and independent investigation. It said it would call upon senior civilian and military leaders to attend proceedings if necessary, and also encouraged members of the public who had information to contact it.

"Their identity will be kept confidential and they will also be legally protected," its statement added.