Pakistani PM: Allegations Over Bin Laden 'Absurd'
Pakistan's prime minister has rejected as "absurd" allegations that national authorities were either complicit in hiding Osama bin Laden or incompetent in tracking him down.
Yousaf Raza Gilani briefed parliament in his first statement to the people since the Al-Qaeda leader was killed by U.S. commandos in his compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad on May 2, sharply embarrassing the Pakistani government.
Gilani said it was disingenuous for anyone to accuse Pakistan of "being in cahoots" with Al-Qaeda, and that Pakistan had full confidence in its military and intelligence services.
"Allegations of complicity or incompetence are absurd. We emphatically reject such accusations," Gilani said. "Speculative narratives in the public domain are meant to create despondency."
Gilani also said Pakistan had ordered an investigation into how the world's most-wanted man was able to live for years in Abbottabad, near the capital, Islamabad, undetected.
He said bin Laden's killing was proper justice, but warned that unilateral actions such as the U.S. raid on the Al-Qaeda leader's hideout run the risk of serious consequences.
He insisted, however, that Pakistan attached high importance to its relations with Washington.
The prime minister also repeated his remarks of last week, saying the failure to find bin Laden all those years was shared by intelligence agencies the world over.
And he again stated his country's resolve in eradicating terrorism. "Our nation is united in its resolve to eliminate terrorism from our sacred land," he said. "Pakistan will not relent in this national cause and it is determined not to allow its soil to be used by anyone for terrorism."
The address comes amid opposition calls for Pakistani leaders to resign over the breach of sovereignty by U.S. forces.
"Parliamentarians have to ask for the resignation of the chief executive and those people who are exercising the political power, because they are the ones who order, after all, this policy of cooperation with America, which has now ended in a fiasco because America turns out to be really trampling our sovereignty and our security," retired General Hamid Gul, the former chief of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, told RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal.
"So it is their policy. They are following this policy. The army didn't make that policy, the ISI didn't make that policy."
Gul said if there was a new government, "it has to change its policy of appeasement of America and continuing to play the second[-place] role."
"As far as terrorism is concerned," he added, "we will handle it ourselves."
The U.S. operation has raised concerns of a rift between Islamabad and Washington over suspicions of Pakistani collusion with militants.
In an interview broadcast on May 8, U.S. President Barack Obama said the Al-Qaeda leader must have had "some sort of support network" in Pakistan, but he said he did not know whether it included government officials.
The president told the CBS show "60 Minutes" the Pakistani government had to find out if any of its officials knew of the Al-Qaeda leader's whereabouts.
Bin Laden's Widows
Meanwhile, U.S. national security adviser Tom Donilon said Islamabad needed to establish how bin Laden lived for several years near the capital and beside a military academy.
Donilon told NBC talk show "Meet the Press" that the Pakistani authorities needed to provide the United States with access to bin Laden's three widows, who were taken into custody after last week's U.S. commando raid.
"There was some support network in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that supported bin Laden. We haven't seen evidence that the government knew about that, but they need to investigate that," Donilon said.
Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, told ABC's "This Week" program that his government would act on the results of the probe: "And heads will roll, once the investigation has been completed. Now, if those heads are rolled on account of incompetence, we will share that information with you. And if, God forbid, somebody's complicity is discovered, there will be zero tolerance for that, as well."
On May 7, the Pentagon released from the Abbottabad compound video clips featuring bin Laden, with the audio removed.
U.S. intelligence officials said the compound was an "active command and control center" for bin Laden's terror network where he was involved in plotting future attacks on the United States.
But Pakistani officials raised doubts that bin Laden was actively engaged in directing his network from his hideout, saying there was no Internet connection or even telephone line into it.
With tension building between the United States and Pakistan over the U.S. raid, local media reported a name they allege is that of the CIA station chief in Islamabad.
Pakistani intelligence and the U.S. Embassy declined immediate comment, but The Associated Press news agency said it had learned that the name being reported is incorrect.
In December, the CIA pulled its then-station chief out of Pakistan when a name alleged to be his hit the local press after being mentioned by a lawyer who planned a lawsuit on behalf of victims of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan.
with contribution from RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal and agency reports
Copyright (c) 2011. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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