ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Rehman Malik appeared on Wednesday before the Abbottabad Inquiry Commission and claimed that at no stage was the government aware of Osama bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan, an insider told Dawn.
The commission is investigating the US commando raid in Abbottabad on May 2 last year which left Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden dead.
The minister gave a detailed briefing to the commission, which lasted six hours, about the internal security system, country’s visa policy and presence of illegal immigrants in the country.
The commission is expected to complete its report soon because it was waiting to incorporate the statement of the interior minister to the report.
During the briefing, the minister admitted the failure of civil intelligence agencies in tracking down the Al Qaeda founder.
However, it was for the first time that a government official told the Abbottabad Commission that the government was unaware of Osama bin Laden’s presence in the country.
The commission, headed by Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal, also interviewed Interior Secretary Khawaja Siddiq Akbar, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Director General Javed Iqbal, the Director General of Passports and other officials of the interior ministry.
The commission also summoned Chief Commissioner of Islamabad Tariq Pirzada and Inspector General of Islamabad Police Bani Amin.
It is learnt that the government could not make arrangements for repatriation of Osama bin Laden’s family members to their country.
The family was taken into custody from a house in Bilal Town, Abbottabad, where Osama bin Laden was hiding.
The sources said that wives and children of Osama bin Laden were illegally living in the country and they had no travel documents.
Lack of documentation is said to be the main reason behind the delay in repatriation of the family.
They said the government would wait for the release of the inquiry report of the Abbottabad Commission and guidelines under which family members of the Al Qaeda leader could be sent to their country.
The sources said that information about activities of foreigners and their residences in the country were obtained from interior ministry officials. The interior minister also presented a documentary record about foreigners living in the country.
The commission was also given a report on hiring of houses by foreign nationals in Islamabad as the commission believed that some members of Osama’s family had stayed in Islamabad.
The commission asked the Islamabad IG to name the authority that monitors hiring of houses by foreign nationals in Islamabad.
The commission was informed that the Foreign Office and local administration/police were responsible for dealing with such cases.