Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani rejected yesterday allegations that the killing of Osama bin Laden by US troops in his country showed Pakistani incompetence or complicity in hiding the al-Qaeda leader.
Opposition politicians have stepped up their criticism of Pakistan’s leaders over the killing of bin Laden in a raid by US Navy SEALS in a northern Pakistani town on May 2.
Pakistan welcomed the death of bin Laden, who plotted the Sept. 11 attacks on the US, as a step in the fight against militancy, but also complained that the raid was a violation of its sovereignty.
The fact that bin Laden was found hiding in the garrison town of Abbottabad, 50km from the capital, has led to accusations that Pakistani security agencies were either incompetent or sheltering the world’s most wanted man.
“Allegations of complicity or incompetence are absurd,” Gilani said in a televised address to the Pakistani parliament, adding that it was disingenuous for anyone to accuse Pakistan, including its spy agency, of “being in cahoots” with the al-Qaeda network.
The US raid has added to strains in ties between Islamabad and Washington, which are crucial to combating Islamist militants and to bringing stability to Afghanistan.
The US has stopped short of accusing Pakistan of providing shelter to bin Laden.
Gilani said that unilateral actions, such as the US Navy SEALs swoop on bin Laden’s hideout, ran the risk of serious consequences, but he added that Pakistan attached high importance to its relations with the US.
Pakistan’s main opposition party has called on Gilani and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to resign over the breach of sovereignty by the US special forces, who slipped in from Afghanistan to storm the compound where bin Laden was holed up.
Pakistani-US relations were already fragile after a string of diplomatic disputes over issues including a big attack by a US drone aircraft in March and Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who shot dead two Pakistanis in the city of Lahore in January.
Potentially stirring tension further, a Pakistani TV channel and a newspaper published what they said was the name of the undercover CIA station chief in Islamabad.
The US embassy declined to comment, but said no one of that name worked at the mission in Pakistan.
Last year, after the chief of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency was named in a US civil case over attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai, the then-head of the CIA’s Islamabad station was named by Pakistani media and forced to leave the country.
The government and military have been embarrassed by the discovery of bin Laden in Abbottabad, near the country’s main military academy.
“If he was really living in that compound for five years ... then why didn’t our agencies discover him?” former Pakistani foreign minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri told reporters. “This has given anti-Pakistani elements a chance to ridicule us.”
US President Barack Obama said on Sunday that bin Laden likely had “some sort” of a support network inside Pakistan, but added it would take investigations by Pakistan and the US to find out just what the nature of that support was.
“We think that there had to be some sort of support network for bin Laden inside of Pakistan, but we don’t know who or what that support network was,” Obama said.