Insisting that Pakistan had no role in providing shelter to Osama bin Laden, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has attributed presence of the slain al Qaeda leader in his country to universal intelligence failure.
Mr. Gilani, who is on a five-day visit to Britain, denied in an interview to ‘The Guardian’ that bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad was secretly known.
He said: “There is no complicity. I think it’s an intelligence failure from all over the world,” and denied suggestions that elements within Pakistan’s military may have been aware of bin Laden’s hideout, by saying: “Why should we do that? We have suffered the most.”
According to Mr. Gilani, Pakistan was “part of the solution, not part of the problem” when it came to the “global issue” of fighting terrorism.
He alleged that the U.S. had fuelled the problem by abandoning its ally Pakistan once the Soviets had been driven from Afghanistan.
“The vacuum was filled by militants,” he said.
To U.S. secretary of state Hilary Clinton’s statement in India that she believed that Ayman al-Zawahiri, who inherited the al-Qaeda leadership after bin Laden’s death, was hiding “somewhere in Pakistan”, Mr. Gilani said, “If there is any credible information please share it with us, so we can be quick and achieve our targets.”
Asked if Taliban leader Mullah Omar might also be in the country, the prime minister replied, “I don’t know. Please tell us.”
The CIA was far more “powerful” than Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service, and would have a better idea, he said.
The Guardian reported that during the interview, Mr. Gilani was “surprisingly upbeat” about relations with Delhi and spoke warmly of Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh.
Islamabad, he said, was “serious” about resolving all core issues with India, including Jammu and Kashmir and Siachen.
Mr. Gilani claimed that his country had been the biggest loser from the turmoil in neighbouring Afghanistan and from Islamist extremism at home: “Pakistan has paid a huge price.
Some 35,000 people have been martyred. 5,000 police and soldiers have been killed.”
In addition, Pakistan was now “catering to the needs” of 3.6 million Afghan refugees, he said.
The daily reported that Mr. Gilani was “upbeat about relations with Washington”, which have been under severe strain since US-led Nato forces killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last November.
Mr. Gilani admitted recent relations with the Obama administration had not been “too normal” but said the CIA and ISI were still working hard together to wipe out -- or “achieve”, as he put it – high-level targets.
He claimed that it was practically impossible to police the mountainous Afghan-Pakistan border, where thousands crossed every day.
“We don’t know if they are tourists or militants,” he said in the interview.