Pakistan PM rejects accusations over bin Laden

ISLAMABAD Mon May 9, 2011 7:09pm EDT

1 of 9. A man watches Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani on a televised address to the parliament at an appliance store in Islamabad, May 9, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Erik de Castro

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ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani rejected allegations on Monday that the killing of Osama bin Laden near Islamabad by U.S. forces showed Pakistani incompetence or complicity in hiding the al Qaeda leader.

Opposition politicians have stepped up their criticism of Pakistan's leaders over the killing of bin Laden in a raid by U.S. special forces in a northern Pakistani town on May 2.

Pakistan welcomed the death of bin Laden, who plotted the September 11, 2001, airliner attacks on the United States, as a step in the fight against militancy but also complained the raid violated its sovereignty.

The fact that bin Laden was found hiding in the garrison town of Abbottabad, 50 km (30 miles) from the capital, has led to accusations that Pakistani security agencies were either incompetent or sheltering the world's most wanted man.

"Allegations of complicity or incompetence are absurd," Gilani said in a televised address to parliament, adding that it was disingenuous for anyone to accuse Pakistan, including its spy agency, of "being in cahoots" with the al Qaeda network.

The U.S. raid has added to strains in ties between Islamabad and Washington, which are crucial to combating Islamist militants and to bringing stability to Afghanistan.

The United States wants Pakistan to grant access to bin Laden's three wives to gain more information about al Qaeda, White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Monday. The wives were at the compound when the U.S. team swooped in and have been detained by Pakistan.

But Carney also said fallout from the bin Laden operation should not hurt U.S.-Pakistani relations.

"We believe it is very important to maintain a cooperative relationship with Pakistan, precisely because it's in our national security interests to do so," Carney told a briefing.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Western governments had "no alternative" to cooperating with Pakistan in the fight against Islamic militants.

"My bottom line is that we need strong cooperation with Pakistan. If we are to assure long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan and beyond, then we need positive engagement with Pakistan," Rasmussen told the World Affairs Council in Atlanta on Monday.

The United States has stopped short of accusing Pakistan of providing shelter to bin Laden, but Islamabad is under pressure to explain how bin Laden found refuge.

Gilani warned that unilateral actions such as the U.S. Navy SEALs raid on bin Laden's hide-out risked serious consequences, but he added that Pakistan placed high importance on its relations with the United States.

Pakistan's main opposition party has called on Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari to resign over the breach of sovereignty by U.S. special forces who slipped in from Afghanistan on helicopters to storm the bin Laden compound.

"I think it is a big blow to Pakistan's sovereignty, Pakistan's independence and Pakistan's self-respect," former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told reporters in Lahore. "Pakistan is in a grave crisis and is surrounded by big danger."

But the White House expressed no regrets about the bin Laden raid.

"We obviously take the statements and concerns of the Pakistani government seriously, but we also do not apologize for the action that we took -- that this president took," Carney said.

Domestic critics say the U.S. raid also raises questions about the safety of Pakistan's cherished nuclear weapons, but Gilani said any move against them would be met with "a matching response."

"Pakistan reserves the right to retaliate with full force," he said.

TENSE RELATIONS WITH WASHINGTON

Pakistani-U.S. relations were already fragile after a string of diplomatic disputes over issues including a big attack by a U.S. drone aircraft in March and CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who shot dead two Pakistanis in January.

Potentially stirring tension further, a Pakistani TV channel and a newspaper published what they said was the name of the undercover CIA station chief in Islamabad.

U.S. officials said the name disclosed in Pakistani media was wrong and that the real station chief would remain at his post. They said they believe the leak was a calculated attempt to divert attention from U.S. demands for explanations of how bin Laden could have hidden for years in Pakistan.

Last year, after the chief of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency was named in a U.S. civil case over attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai, the then-head of the CIA's Islamabad station was named by Pakistani media and forced to leave the country.

The government and military have been embarrassed by the discovery of bin Laden in Abbottabad, near the country's main military academy.

"If he was really living in that compound for five years ... then why didn't our agencies discover him?" former Foreign Minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri told reporters. "This has given anti-Pakistani elements a chance to ridicule us."

But Gilani said he had full confidence in the armed forces and the military's ISI which he called a "national asset." The military would brief parliament in a closed session Friday.

OBAMA SUSPECTS SUPPORT NETWORK

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Sunday that bin Laden likely had "some sort" of a support network inside Pakistan, but added it would take investigations by Pakistan and the United States to find out the nature of that support.

"We think that there had to be some sort of support network for bin Laden inside of Pakistan. But we don't know who or what that support network was," Obama said.

"We don't know whether there might have been some people inside of government, people outside of government, and that's something that we have to investigate, and more importantly, the Pakistani government has to investigate," he added.

Suspicion has deepened that the pervasive ISI, which has a long history of contacts with militant groups, may have had ties with the al Qaeda leader, or that some of its agents did.

Some Pakistani analysts suspect powerful figures knew where bin Laden was hiding.

"Somebody in a position of authority had to know," said security analyst Ayesha Siddiqa.

Siddiqa said the army and ISI's entrenched strategy of using violent militant groups as a counterweight against India may have been why the security establishment turned a blind eye to bin Laden, possibly regarding his network of followers as an asset against Indian influence.

(Additional reporting by Augustine Anthony, Kamran Haider, Michael Georgy and Chris Allbritton in Islamabad, Donna Smith, Steve Holland and Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Editing by Robert Birsel and Eric Beech)

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Comments (34)
big_log wrote:
No body, no pictures, no independent witnesses, and no sound on the only video they could dig up. Excuse me if I still harbor a little skepticism. Do I think OBL is dead? Yes. In fact, there is more compelling evidence than anything the US government has been able to provide that suggests he has been dead for many years. As for Al Qaeda’s alleged confession that OBL is dead, please investigate it for yourself. This “undeniable fact” is based on something posted in an internet chat room, and no one in Al Qaeda has taken credit for it. This could have been written by anyone. In fact, the source of the tip is from SITE, a private sector organization on the government payroll with a documented history of fudging Al Qaeda missives. Besides, since when is anything posted in an internet chat room taken as the absolute truth without independent verification or corroboration, especially in one of the biggest and most important stories of the decade? The is a government EPIC FAIL.

May 09, 2011 1:11am EDT  --  Report as abuse
mb56 wrote:
“We THINK that there had to be some sort of support networK…”
“We DON’T KNOW whether there MIGHT HAVE BEEN some people…”
=====

What ever happened to responsible journalism? Why do so many journalist now feel free to stretch the headline into something NOT supported by the facts of the article? The above statements hardly lead to the attention grabbing headline put on this story. SHAME on Rueters for this sloppy piece!

May 09, 2011 1:21am EDT  --  Report as abuse
daniwitz13 wrote:
Now that’s odd, all these years the CIA was telling us that Osama was directing his troops from hideout along the border just inside Pakistan. Well so much for good intelligence. The latest news is that the US is demanding the Pakistanis hand over Osama’s wives for interrogations. This is a method to make them at fault and NOT the US at fault. The US is trying to go on the offense to scare them. It is the Pakistanis to pressure the US to give BACK all the trove of materials that they stole from their country. They need to go over the evidence found in their country and taken by the Seals. It does NOT belong to the US, it is evidence for the Pakistanis to use against the Country that invaded their homeland to kill and plunder materials then turn around and make demands for more materials, like widows. The US has things in reverse. The Pakistanis need the US to explain why they killed people in Pakistan with nary an explanation and justification. This is like attacking the Govt. Capital, killing some cabinet members, Raiding the Premiers file cabinets, dragging some bodies out, then say all the materials are ours, and we need to talk to the cabinet members widows and interrogate them. Talk about chutzpah.

May 09, 2011 1:29am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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