Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar has claimed that the government of Pakistan and its armed forces played a vital role in the killing of former al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. He gave this statement on the first anniversary of the raid on bin Laden’s Abbotabad compound during an interview to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Urdu Service. The defence minister claimed Pakistan’s armed forces were responsible for weakening al Qaeda’s terrorist network.
Providing details regarding the search for the former al Qaeda chief, Mukhtar revealed he was tracked down through a mobile phone chip or SIM, found ‘by chance’ by the Pakistani forces.
During the interview, Mukhtar also revealed other details regarding US-Pakistani cooperation in efforts to ascertain the former al Qaeda leader’s whereabouts. He said Pakistani authorities were bound contractually to the US to hand over all Arabic and English data recovered during the hunt for bin Laden. Similarly, US authorities were required to hand over all Urdu and English data they recovered during their search efforts to Pakistan.
When asked why Dr Shakil Afridi was being tried for treason if Pakistani authorities were already cooperating with the US, Mukhtar said Afridi should have handed over the information he recovered to Pakistan rather than the US. While talking to Geo News later, however, the defence minister said that while Pakistan and US cooperated during search efforts, Washington did not notify Pakistani authorities about the raid on the Abbottabad compound.
Talking about evidence from the Abbottabad compound, Mukhtar said the armed forces were investigating all material recovered. He added, however, that certain items, such as the CDs recovered from the compound, will take some time to decode.
During the BBC interview, the defence minister diverted a question regarding why Pakistan faced accusations of harbouring bin Laden if it was involved in the search, by offering a vague statement. He responded by saying “I do not know how big a leader Osama bin Laden was. Time will tell how positive his contributions to the Muslim countries proved to be.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 3rd, 2012.
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