Forced by criticism into saying more than its first terse response to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s killing, Pakistan on Tuesday evening disclosed that its Air Force had scrambled its jets as the U. S. operation was going on, and American attention to Abbottabad had been drawn by the Inter Services Intelligence.
Recognising bin Laden’s death as an important milestone in the fight against terrorism, the Foreign Office -- in a detailed rebuttal of some of the criticism, speculations and conspiracy theories bombarded on Pakistan in the past 36 hours – expressed “deep concerns and reservations on the manner in which the Government of the United States carried out this operation without prior information or authorization from the Government of Pakistan’’.
“This event of unauthorised unilateral action cannot be taken as a rule,’’ the statement said, adding that such an event “shall not serve as a future precedent for any state’’, including the U.S. “Such actions undermine cooperation and may also sometimes constitute threat to international peace and security.”
Rubbishing reports about U.S. helicopters taking off from Ghazi Airbase, Pakistan asserted that no base nor any facility inside Pakistan was used by the U.S. forces. Neither did Pakistan Army provide any operational or logistic assistance to this operation. On U.S. helicopters reaching Abbottabad undetected, the Foreign Office said: “U.S. helicopters entered Pakistani airspace making use of blind spots in radar coverage due to hilly terrain. U.S. helicopters’ undetected flight into Pakistan was also facilitated by mountainous terrain, efficacious use of latest technology and ‘nap-of-the-earth’ flying techniques. It may not be realistic to draw an analogy between this undefended civilian area and some military / security installations which have elaborate local defence arrangements.’’
To buttress its contention, the Foreign Office quoted White House Advisor John Brennan’s briefing in which he said Islamabad was informed only after all American helicopters were out of Pakistani airspace. “At the time, Pakistanis were reacting to an incident that they knew was taking place in Abbottabad. Therefore, they were scrambling some of their assets. Clearly, we were concerned that if the Pakistanis decided to scramble jets or whatever else, they didn’t know who were on those jets.”
According to the statement, the ISI had been sharing information with the Central Intelligence Agency and other friendly intelligence agencies about the target compound since 2009. “The intelligence flow indicating some foreigners in the surroundings of Abbottabad, continued till mid April 2011. Taking advantage of much superior technological assets, CIA exploited the intelligence leads given by us to identify and reach Osama bin Ladin,… It is also important to mention that CIA and some other friendly intelligence agencies have benefitted a great deal from the intelligence provided by ISI.’’