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Pakistani Analysts React to PM's Address on bin Laden

A man watches Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani during a televised address to the parliament on the killing of Osama bin Laden, May 9, 2011

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's speech to the country's parliament Monday has met with criticism by Pakistani analysts. They question whether his words will calm the crisis sparked by the U.S. commando raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

In his address, Mr. Gilani rejected allegations that last week's U.S. raid showed his country was complicit or incompetent in allowing the al-Qaida leader to hide out in Pakistan. He said it was "disingenuous" for anyone to insinuate that Pakistani authorities, including the country's spy agency, were aligned with al-Qaida. He voiced support for the military and the spy agency, which he said was a national asset.

Analysts say that one of the biggest concerns since the U.S. raid has been the Pakistani government's lack of transparency. Many, like political analyst Zaid Hussain, say the government should have addressed the Pakistani people sooner. "This has come too late now. And I don’t think it is going to have any effect," Hussain said.

But critics say it appears Mr. Gilani was not even concerned about addressing the Pakistani people, given that most of the address was delivered in English.

Other Pakistani observers say they wanted to hear more substance from the prime minister. Questions remain about what government officials knew -- not just about bin Laden, but also about the U.S. raid that killed him in the city of Abbottabad, deep inside Pakistani territory. The raid has angered many in Pakistan, who say it exposes weaknesses in the country's defenses and was a violation of its national sovereignty.

Prime Minister Gilani announced in his speech that a top army general will lead an inquiry into the bin Laden case.

But retired general Talat Masood says that letting the military conduct such an inquiry makes it unlikely any questions will be answered. Instead, he suggests the investigation should be conducted by what he calls a group of "credible" people.

"There should be a panel of people who have credibility and acceptance amongst the people of Pakistan. And then only will we accept its findings. It’s not just a question of having a commission or an inquiry but we also we want results," Masood said.

Historically, the real power in Pakistan has been held by the military -- which, at times, during periods of instability, has seized power completely from civilian governments.

Some experts warn that if the government or opposition parties push the military too hard , it could respond aggressively.

For Professor Hussan Askari of Punjab University, that means opposition groups are more likely focus their criticism on the government of President Asif Ali Zardari and try to score political points.

"They can’t really knock out the military, but political leaders, opposition parties, Islamist parties would like to knock out this government, so they are using this issue as part of their domestic politics," Askari said.

Internationally, criticism of Pakistan is tempered by the realization that a partnership with Islamabad is vital to the fight against terrorism and the search for a solution in Afghanistan.

And with pressure on Islamabad mounting in the wake of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, what happens within the Pakistani establishment could significantly affect issues well beyond the country's borders.