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The Abbottabad Commission report must be made public

AN incident, or cataclysm, occurs; the state is immediately exposed as inept and inefficient in myriad ways; in the immediate aftermath, a concession is made and the government allows the creation of a judicial or inquiry commission; the latter does its work diligently; the final commission report is rumoured to contain damning indictments of state failures and to suggest sweeping changes and then, nothing.

The official report is buried, locked in a vault or, as Javed Iqbal, retired Supreme Court justice and head of the Abbottabad commission, has claimed, forgotten on a shelf somewhere.

In demanding that the Abbottabad commission report be made public, as he did on Monday in an appearance before a parliamentary standing committee on interior, the retired judge has articulated a concern of many in this country.

Across the political spectrum, civil society and even within departments of the state, there is discontent not only that repeated failures of a similar nature occur, but that the practical and eminently implementable recommendations to improve the performance of the state are kept hidden from the public.

There are two related problems.

The first is that some commission reports are kept hidden from the public despite being drawn up for public consumption.

The second is that even when reports are made public, as in the case of the recent Quetta commission, the recommendations are either ignored or soon forgotten.

At the root of both of those problems is the same entity: the government of the day which is usually not interested in embarrassing revelations concerning the state and has little incentive to change things once a report is made public.

A potential solution, then, could be the parliamentary route. If parliament itself either conducts an inquiry or commissions a report, there is a readymade forum in which to pursue vigorous results parliament itself. Judicial or inquiry commissions stand disbanded once their reports are finalised and so there is no institutional way to build or sustain pressure for change.

The parliamentary route, while admittedly cumbersome and liable to be pulled in many political directions, is institutionally sustainable.

MPs elected for five years and senators elected for six can, if parliament is reinvigorated and infused with a fresh sense of purpose, effect much change.

Oversight of the executive is, after all, a fundamental job of the executive.

Be that as it may, there is no need to simply wait for the long-term correct institutional response.

As Mr Iqbal demonstrated with his comments before the standing committee, a well-timed public comment as the fallout from the Quetta commission report continues to swirl in the political and media landscapes can draw the public’s attention and make continued stonewalling by a government more difficult.

The Abbottabad commission report is of particular importance for national security and state policy; the report must be made public.

courtesy : dawn news

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