Rather than use its embarrassment over the bin Laden affair to get to the bottom of what is wrong in Pakistan, the civilian government appears intent on hiding from the truth. Its Prime Minister, Yousuf Gilani, declared his country and its institutions innocent of complicity and incompetence on Monday. Instead, he said, the whole world had an intelligence failure. Everyone is to blame, and no one. Thus, the inquiry he announced in the same speech already appears compromised.
"It is disingenuous for anyone to blame Pakistan or state institutions of Pakistan, including the ISI and the armed forces, for being in cahoots with al-Qaeda," Mr. Gilani told the country's Parliament - surely a disingenuous use of "disingenuous." Pakistan has been caught with a smoking gun. It needs to explain to its own people, the United States and the rest of the world, how Osama bin Laden happened to be chilling out in a military town not far from the country's capital, Islamabad.
Embarrassment could be a force for good. It could impel the country to re-examine the dalliance of some elements of its security apparatus with terrorists and Taliban fighters. The destructive effects on Pakistan are obvious: thousands of Pakistani lives lost, and the civilian government weakened.
The approach taken yesterday by Mr. Gilani reflects that weakness. For one thing, he put an army general in charge of the inquiry. The equivalent in Canada would have been to put the former RCMP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli in charge of the Maher Arar inquiry. How about an independent tribunal headed by the chief justice? Who is more likely to dig fearlessly for the truth? Discouragingly, the inquiry will probe not only how Mr. bin Laden was able to hide out but how the U.S. special forces evaded detection. This dual purpose reinforces the impression of double-dealing at the heart of the bin Laden affair.
In late 2001, the U.S. and Pakistan made a deal in which the U.S. could do exactly what it did last week - a unilateral raid - and Pakistan would vociferously complain, the Guardian newspaper revealed on Monday. So one-half of the inquiry, on the U.S. forces evading detection, seems a travesty before it begins. With so much disingenuousness in the air, the chance seems slight that the world will learn something useful about Mr. bin Laden's support network in Pakistan.