Pakistan's Prime Minister has again denied that his government was aware that former al-Qaeda chieftain Osama bin Laden had been living in the country prior to his assassination by U.S. commando forces in a town near Islamabad last May.
Speaking to reporters in London while visiting Britain for five days, Yousuf Raza Gilani also denied that his government protected Osama. Rather he blamed a global “intelligence failure” for the terrorist’s lengthy stay in Pakistan.
There is no complicity [by our government],” Gilani told the Guardian newspaper.
“I think it's an intelligence failure from all over the world.”
He also declared that rumors that Pakistan’s military and intelligence network were protecting Osama are ludicrous.
Why should we do that? We have suffered the most, he said.
Gilani refused to discuss what intelligence was gathered from Osama’s surviving family members (14 people including wives and children) who were recently deported to Saudi Arabia.
He would also not discuss what was found in documents that were taken from Osama’s former hideaway in Abbottabad.
We have a judicial commission probing into that, he said.
Moreover, Gilani shrugged off accusations by U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton that Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is believed to be Osama’s successor as head of al-Qaeda, is residing somewhere in Pakistan and urged Islamabad authorities to hunt him down.
If there is any credible information [about Zawahiri’s whereabouts] please share it with us, so we can be quick and achieve our targets, Gilani said.
Similarly, Gilani said he didn’t know if Taliban leader Mullah Omar is in Pakistan, adding that the CIA would know more than Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency since the U.S. organization is far more powerful.
The Prime Minister insisted Pakistan was committed to wiping out terrorism since it has suffered so much over the past 10 years since the war in neighboring Afghanistan erupted.
Pakistan has paid a huge price,” he said. “Some 35,000 people have been martyred. 5,000 police and soldiers have been killed.
He added that Pakistan has also received 3.6 million Afghan refugees and is taking care of them.
However, in a separate interview with CNN, Gilani admitted that relations with the U.S. could be better.
There's a trust deficit between both the countries, between both the governments, he said.
That is the reason we [want] to work for new terms of engagement and cooperation with the United States.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.