As the world digests the news of the death of the architect of global terror, Pakistan is facing intense scrutiny in Western capitals notwithstanding the fact that it seems to have helped the United States track down Osama Bin Laden’s lair, as was acknowledged by President Obama.
What else could be a more candid expression of lack of trust in Pakistan’s commitment to fight terrorism than CIA chief Leon Panetta’s statement that they kept Islamabad out of the loop on the operation fearing that it could jeopardise the Abbottabad operation and “might alert the targets.”
Britain and France in unison doubted Pakistan’s version that its intelligence agencies had no knowledge of the al Qaeda kingpin living in undetected luxury, right under the nose of the prestigious military training academy.
Panetta told Time magazine in an interview on Tuesday that his aides had 60 to 80 per cent confidence that Bin Laden was in the sprawling high-walled compound where Sunday night’s daring helicopter operation took place.
The CIA ruled out working with Pakistan on the raid because “it was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardise the mission: They might alert the targets,” Panetta said.
Panetta said he told President Barack Obama: “If I thought delaying this could in fact produce better intelligence that would be one thing. But because of the nature of the security at the compound, we’re probably at a point where we’ve got the best intelligence we can get.”
Finding Bin Laden in such an affluent area, described by some US officials as hiding in plain sight, has raised questions about support from Pakistani elements.
And speaking in London, British Prime Minister David Cameron said that the terror icon must have had a support network in Pakistan.
“The fact that Bin Laden was living in a large house in a populated area suggests that he must have had a support network in Pakistan,” Cameron told the British parliament. “We don’t currently know the extent of that network, so it is right that we ask searching questions about it.”
However, he said it was in Britain’s national interest to recognise that Britain and Pakistan shared the same struggle against terrorism. “That’s why we will continue to work with our Pakistani counterparts on intelligence gathering, tracing plots and action to stop them,” he said.
In Paris, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe also said that Pakistan’s position lacks clarity. “I find it a little difficult to imagine that the presence of someone like bin Laden in … a relatively small town could go completely unnoticed,” Alain Juppe said, ahead of a dinner with PM Yousuf Raza Gilani. “I will ask Gilani... to explain how things happened and so we will have a dialogue which I hope will be enlightening,” Juppe said.
Angered by the disclosure that the global terror icon lived in an upscale neighbourhood close to a military establishment, irate US lawmakers said it was time to review aid to Pakistan.
Meanwhile, the White House said Tuesday the US was “working hard” on its “important and complicated” relations with Pakistan which have been rocked by its secretive raid to kill Bin Laden.
“We are working very hard on that relationship, it is an important and complicated relationship that has been tested in many ways,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2011.