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How Pakistan prevails over Egypt in democracy

While Egypt's military ousts an elected leader, Pakistan's stronger democracy holds its military to account for not searching, let alone finding, Osama bin Laden.

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Children play at the demolished compound of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

AP Photo

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Both Egypt and Pakistan, two of the largest Muslim countries, have struggled to show that Islam and democracy can be compatible. In recent days, however, each has gone down a very different path toward that worthy goal.

In Egypt, millions of protesters took to the streets last week to demand the ouster of an elected Islamist president. On July 3, the military complied. That was hardly the best way for a young democracy to self-correct.

In contrast, Pakistan not only saw its first peaceful handover of n elected civilian government last month, but on Monday, an official report was leaked that strongly criticizes all levels of government – especially the military – for failing to search for Osama bin Laden, even though the Al Qaeda leader had been living in Pakistan for nearly a decade.

The report was commissioned by Pakistani lawmakers after the American secret raid that killed Mr. bin Laden in 2011, embarrassing the country. To Pakistan’s credit, the 336-page report reflects the kind of humble self-examination that any democracy needs to prevent abuse or neglect by those in power.

Named after the area where bin Laden lived, the Abbottabad Commission was led by a Supreme Court judge. Its findings were based on 52 hearings and interviews with more than 200 people, including top intelligence officials. This is the sort of root-and-branch probe that shows a seriousness of oversight.

The four-member commission cites the influence of radical Islamists within the security forces, suggesting a lack of will by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency to hunt down the world’s most notorious terrorist. “In the premier intelligence institution, religiosity replaced accountability,” it stated.

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