The Pakistan Government and its military insisted that Osama bin Laden was not in Pakistan.
Rehman Malik, Interior Minister of Pakistan, and Shaukat Aziz, former Prime Minister, like others in the Pakistan government and military, had at different points in time, insisted that Osama bin Laden was not in Pakistan. Mr. Aziz in particular, took offence to repeated comments by U.S. officials about terrorist threats emanating from Pakistan, according to a U.S. cable. He emphatically told the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, in a meeting in 2007, that “if there is intelligence that he [bin Laden] is in Pakistan, the government will find him.” He made it clear to him that “while Pakistan will not allow its territory to be a safe haven, it will not permit foreign troops to operate here either.”
Mr. Malik repeated a similar viewpoint later, in 2009, in response to the remarks made by then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to Sky News that “Osama bin laden is in Pakistan.”
According to a cable sent from the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, dated July 25, 2007 (116566: confidential), when Ms. Anne Patterson, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, met Mr. Aziz at the request of the latter, she was taken to task over statements by U.S. officials regarding terrorist threats emanating from Pakistan. Mr Aziz explained that “while the government has no information that Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan, he could be anywhere along Pakistan and Afghanistan's 1400 mile border.” He assured Ms. Patterson that “Pakistan is committed 200 percent to fight terrorism,” and the “counter-terrorism fight is in our [Pakistan] national interest and we “fight out of conviction.”
Mr. Aziz told Ms. Patterson that the government was indeed hiring additional officers to counter attacks in the north Pakistan. He pointed out that “at one point, there were only 160 government forces engaged in a pitched battle against 8200 insurgents.” In response, the U.S. Ambassador assured additional and quick support.
U.S. statements criticising Pakistan “will have an unwelcome effect” and made it “more difficult to fight terrorism because the Pakistani government was seen as doing this at the behest of the Americans,” Mr. Aziz said. He also complained about “a purposeful campaign of leaks by ‘American intelligence officials' against Pakistan.” While the Ambassador admitted that classified information was being leaked and was “very damaging” particularly in the case of Pakistan, there was “little she or anyone else could do about them,” she said.
Fallout of comments
The U.S. Ambassador also acknowledged the negative fallout of the comments and pointed to the coverage in Urdu language press. Mr. Aziz responded by saying that “the press does not fully convey the extreme public reaction, and stories on the street about American intervention are worse.”
Ms. Patterson perceptively observed that Mr. Aziz, who is low-key but self-assured, “understood after his many years living in our [U.S.] country, U.S. officials would continue to speak about whatever topic they wanted.”
Towards the end of the meeting, Mr. Aziz made a case for purchasing energy from Iran and for the India-Pakistan-Iran pipeline. He characterised the Iranians “as tough negotiators and unafraid to backtrack,” and said he could not predict “whether work on the pipeline would begin in months or years, but commented that it is moving ahead more quickly than expected.” The Ambassador reminded Mr. Aziz that the U.S. government opposed the pipeline and “she understood that talks had been underway since 1993, so perhaps a deal was not imminent.”