Bin Laden’s hide­out raises ques­tions about what Pak­ista­nis knew

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY ASHISH KU­MAR SEN

The death of Osama bin Laden in a mil­lion-dol­lar man­sion about 35 miles out­side the Pak­istani cap­i­tal and not in a se­cret moun­tain hide­out raised ques­tions about Pak­istani com­plic­ity in con­ceal­ing the al Qaeda leader.

Hamid Gul, a for­mer chief of Pak­istan’s In­ter-Ser­vices In­tel­li­gence (ISI) agency, said that it “is a bit amaz­ing” to be­lieve that authorities did not know bin Laden was in Ab­bot­tabad.

Aside from the mil­i­tar y, “there is the lo­cal po­lice, the In­tel­li­gence Bu­reau, Mil­i­tary In­tel­li­gence, the ISI, they all had a pres­ence there,” he added.

Mem­bers of Congress and an­a­lysts said the pres­sure is now on Pak­istan to re­veal when it first knew about the al Qaeda leader’s where­abouts.

Sen. Joseph I. Leiber­man, Connecticut in­de­pen­dent, said the “bur­den of proof [. . . ] is on the Pak­ista­nis to con­vince us that they re­ally did not know” where bin Laden was hid­ing.

Sen. Su­san M. Collins, Maine Repub­li­can, ac­cused Pak­istan of play­ing a “dou­ble game.”

“It’s very dif­fi­cult for me to un­der­stand how this huge com- pound could be built in a city just an hour north of the cap­i­tal of Pak­istan, in a city that con­tained mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions, in­clud­ing the Pak­istani mil­i­tary academy, and that it did not arouse tremen­dous sus­pi­cion, es­pe­cially since there were no In­ter­net or tele­phone con­nec­tions and the waste was in­cin­er­ated and there was barbed wire all around the top of the com­pound,” she said.

Pak­istan’s civil­ian and mil­i­tary lead­er­ship have in­sisted for years that bin Laden and his deputy, Ay­man al-Zawahri, were not in Pak­istan or that they are hid­ing in the moun­tain­ous tribal belt along the Afghan-Pak­istan bor­der.

In­stead, bin Laden was found liv­ing com­fort­ably on a prop­erty U.S. of­fi­cials said was worth $1 mil­lion and eight times the size of other homes in the city.

“I think it is in­con­ceiv­able that bin Laden didn’t have a sup­port sys­tem in the coun­try that al­lowed him to re­main there for an ex­tended pe­riod of time,” John Bren­nan, Pres­i­dent Obama’s coun­tert­er­ror­ism ad­viser, told re­porters.

He de­clined to spec­u­late on the na­ture of this as­sis­tance, but said U.S. of­fi­cials are “closely talk­ing to the Pak­ista­nis right now.”

Bin Laden was killed May 1 af­ter he was tracked to a com­pound in the gar­ri­son city of Ab­bot­tabad, lo­cated close to the elite Pak­istani Mil­i­tary Academy at Kakul town. The academy is Pak­istan’s equiv­a­lent of West Point.

One week ear­lier, Pak­istan’s army chief, Gen. Ash­faq Parvez Kayani, told grad­u­at­ing cadets at the academy that the “back of terrorism” in Pak­istan had been bro­ken.

Pre­vi­ously, al Qaeda No. 3, Abu Faraj Al-Libbi and Sept. 11 mas­ter­mind Khalid Shaikh Mo­hammed were both cap­tured in res­i­den­tial ar­eas in Pak­istan.

“What this shows is that Pak­istan has been com­plicit with Osama bin Laden, that they have shel­tered him,” Michael Ru­bin, a res­i­dent scholar at the Amer­i­can En­ter­prise In­sti­tute for Pub­lic Pol­icy Re­search, said in a call with re­porters on May 2.

“Even if Pak­istani diplo­mats have been sin­cere, the fact of the mat­ter is that the ISI seems to have been run­ning the show and the diplo­mats were quite ir­rel­e­vant.”

But a spokes­woman for Pak­istan’s min­istry of for­eign af­fairs said Pak­istan has played a sig­nif­i­cant role in ef­forts to elim­i­nate terrorism and de­scribed in­tel­li­gence shar­ing with the U.S. as ex­tremely ef­fec­tive.

Crit­ics have long ac­cused el­e­ments in Pak­istan of sup­port­ing ter­ror­ist groups, in­clud­ing al Qaeda, the Pak­istani Tal­iban, the Haqqani Net­work and Lashkare-Toiba.

“El­e­ments within the ISI cer­tainly con­tinue to main­tain ties with the Haqqani Net­work who con­tinue to en­joy ‘most fa­vored’ sta­tus among Pak­istan’s Afghan proxy groups,” said Jef­frey Dressler, a re­search an­a­lyst at the In­sti­tute for the Study of War.

The Haqqani Net­work is led by a fa­ther-son duo, Jalalud­din and Si­ra­jud­din Haqqani.

“Al Qaeda’s re­la­tion­ship with the Haqqa­nis cer­tainly raises ques­tions about how much el­e­ments within the Pak­istani se­cu­rity es­tab­lish­ment may or may not know about the cur­rent sta­tus of al Qaeda in Pak­istan,” Mr. Dressler said.

The U.S. did not in­form Pak­istani authorities of the mis­sion un­til af­ter it was con­cluded, prompt­ing ac­cu­sa­tions from some Pak­ista­nis of a vi­o­la­tion of sovereignty.

Pervez Mushar­raf, Pak­istan’s for­mer pres­i­dent, told CNN-IBN, an In­dian news chan­nel, that U.S. troops op­er­at­ing in Pak­istan is “not ac­cept­able to the peo­ple of Pak­istan. It is a vi­o­la­tion of our sovereignty.”

A U.S. of­fi­cial said that since the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist at­tacks, the United States has made it clear to Pak­istan that it would pur­sue bin Laden wher­ever he might be.

This ar­ti­cle is based in part on wire ser­vice re­ports.


Friends of Osama: Sup­port­ers of Pak­istani re­li­gious par ty Jamiat Ulema-e-Is­lam rally to con­demn the killing of Osama bin Laden in Quetta, Pak­istan on May 3.

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