Four years after Osama bin Laden was captured and killed by the United States, veteran American journalist Seymour Hersh published a controversial piece, claiming a senior Pakistani intelligence officer betrayed the secret of the al Qaeda chief’s presence in Abbottabad in return for a reward.
In his 10,000-word essay in the London Review of Books, Hersh further remarked US forces had killed Bin Laden with full cooperation of the Pakistan Army and security agencies, who had kept the 9/11 mastermind as a ‘prisoner’ inside the Abbottabad compound for years.
The expose was given coverage for days, with both the White House and Pakistan’s Foreign Office rejecting the claims as “baseless”. Exactly a month after, a Pakistani journalist, in his book, revealed who the ‘mole’ within the intelligence was. Unfortunately, it could not drive the due airtime.
Book review: Of Rift and Rivalry - Adrift in rift
Azaz Syed in The Secrets of Pakistan’s War on Al-Qaeda identifies the “walk-in” who offered the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) a lead to Bin Laden as Colonel (retd) Iqbal Saeeduddin, an ex-military intelligence officer, who established his links with the CIA during his service at the Pakistan High Commission in Dhaka.
The book includes interviews of officials, including militant commander Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, who maintained contacts with Bin Laden during his stay in Abbottabad, and former chief of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt Gen Shuja Pasha. It is the first original work produced by a journalist in Pakistan after Bin Laden’s death.
Even though he had a bitter experience with Pasha during the latter’s years in service, the author managed to have a detailed conversation with him, which has never been conducted before.
Denying any involvement in sheltering Bin Laden, Pasha told Syed he was intrigued by President Obama’s May 2, 2011 statement in which he, besides announcing the successful hunt of Bin Laden, also mentioned the cooperation by Pakistan.
The 169-page research work based on both primary and secondary sources divulges into the network of Bin Laden and his associates in Pakistan, how he had prior knowledge of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and his ambitious plan of capturing Fata, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Islamabad and parts of Punjab to establish “a desired state” after the attacks.
The book also discusses the rise of General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani as the ISI chief, and later chief of army staff following an assassination attempt on then president General Pervez Musharraf in 2003, his role in striking a secret deal with former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, the tension between the ISI and the CIA, as the former was upset over the latter’s growing network in Pakistan, as well as the increasing collaboration of the security establishment with the Americans under Kayani.
Minor factual errors and issues in sentence structure have perhaps made many overlook the positives of the tell-all account, which offers many insights on one of the most talked about operations in recent history.
Title: The Secrets of Pakistan’s War on Al-Qaeda
Author: Azaz Syed
Publisher: Narratives Pvt Ltd
The writer works on The Express Tribune’s web desk. He tweets
Published in The Express Tribune, January 3rd, 2016.
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