Friday 24 March 2017

Pakistani PM hits back after 'absurd' allegation

Rob Crilly in Islamabad

A man in Islamabad watches Pakistan's prime minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani, on TV.

Pakistan's prime minister responded angrily yesterday to suggestions by US President Barack Obama that elements of his government or intelligence agencies had acted as a support network for Osama bin Laden.

Yusuf Raza Gilani dismissed the allegations as "absurd". His government has faced intense questions during the past week about how the most wanted man in history had hidden in plain sight only 48km from the capital Islamabad.

In an address to the national assembly, designed to restore some dignity to a nation embarrassed at how easily Bin Laden evaded capture, he defended the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency.

He admitted there had been a failure of intelligence but said it had been a failure by "all the intelligence agencies of the world".

"It is disingenuous for anyone to blame Pakistan or state institutions of Pakistan, including the ISI and the armed forces, for being in cahoots with al-Qa'ida," he said in one of a series of veiled swipes at the US.

"It was al-Qa'ida and its affiliates that carried out hundreds of suicide bombings in nearly every town and city of Pakistan and also targeted political leaders, state institutions, the ISI and the general headquarters."

He said Pakistani agents had passed on intelligence to their American counterparts, which had ultimately helped to track down the al-Qa'ida leader.

However, he ordered an investigation into how Bin Laden could have lived in Abbottabad, a town known for its military training academy, for five years.

Last Sunday, Mr Obama raised the issue of Pakistani government officials helping to hide Bin Laden.

"We don't know whether there might have been some people inside of government, people outside of government, and that's something that we have to investigate and, more importantly, the Pakistani government has to investigate," he said, provoking anger among Pakistan's politicians and military officials.

Mistrust

The White House also called on Islamabad to help to counter growing mistrust by granting US investigators access to three of Bin Laden's widows, who are in custody in Pakistan.

Critics in Pakistan want to know how American helicopters were able to cross the border and fly undetected to Abbottabad. The country's military were alerted only when one of the helicopters crashed in Bin Laden's compound.

Opposition leaders have demanded the resignations of both the prime minister and president for the apparent lapses in security. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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