Monday, 2 May 2011

Pakistan-US relations in jeopardy after Osama bin Laden death?

Pakistan-US relations in jeopardy after Osama bin Laden death?
Omer Farooq Khan, TNN | May 2, 2011, 08.08pm IST

9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden dead.
ISLAMABAD: The killing of Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of 9/11, in a ground operation carried out exclusively by US troops on late Sunday night near Pakistan's military academy in Abbottabad, could jeopardize relations between Islamabad and Washington.

For hours, Pakistan kept mum over the news of bin Laden's death. It broke its silence about 11 hours after the incident when the country's foreign office confirmed that the operation against bin Laden was entirely the handiwork of the US forces. The statement came after long hours of deliberations and brainstorming between the country's top civilian and military leadership in the Pakistan president house at Islamabad.

"In an intelligence driven operation, Osama bin Laden was killed in the surroundings of Abbottabad in the early hours of this morning. This operation was conducted by the US forces in accordance with declared US policy that Osama bin Laden will be eliminated in a direct action by the US forces, wherever found," Tehmina Janjua, Pakistan's foreign office spokesperson said.

Following Janjua's statement, Pakistani PM Yusuf Raza Gilani called the killing of Osama bin Laden a great victory. "It is Pakistan's stated policy not to allow its soil for terrorist attacks against any country. Pakistan's political leadership, parliament, state institutions and the whole nation are fully united in their resolve to eliminate terrorism," Gilani said, adding that he didn't know the details of the US operation.

Pakistan's military has not released any statement about bin laden's killing. Some observers believe that Pakistan would like to be seen as not having helped in this operation because it would become the immediate target of the terrorist network. However, Pakistan's former ISI chief, General Hameed Gul, said that Osama may have been in Pakistan for treatment. "Osama's presence raises questions about the Pakistan intelligence's ability," he said.

Gul was critical of US activities in Pakistan. "Americans have been given a free hand in Pakistan and they do whatever they want. They have hoodwinked us and are after Pakistan's nuclear assets."

He said there will be a backlash from al-Qaida if it transpires that Pakistan helped the US in this operation.

The death of bin Laden in Abbottabad, a city mostly dominated by Pakistan's military, has raised many questions regarding the role of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI)whether his whereabouts were known to the spy agency. Bin Laden was not living in an ordinary residence. The walls of three-storey building were 12- to 18ft high, topped with barbed wire. Access to the compound was severely restricted. Bin Laden's compound was roughly eight times larger than other houses in the area.

Since the start of the war on terror, Pakistani leaders have denied the presence of bin Laden in the country. His death on Sunday night caught the Pakistani leadership unawares. His presence just next to the Kakul military academy in Abbottabad which produce scores of officers every year for the Pakistan's army came as a big surprise. Contrary to frequent media/intelligence speculation in the last several years that Bin Laden could be hiding in the rugged tribal areas of Pakistan or even across the border in Afghanistan, the al-Qaida's iconic leader was found in a rather peaceful and scenic suburb of Pakistan's capital, Islamabad.

Sources inside Peshawar's US consulate informed TOI that the American officials working in the north-western city were suddenly told on Friday to leave because of threats of their abductions.

The killing of bin Laden came as relations between the US and Pakistan have reached to its lowest point since the start of the war against terror. Since 9/11, the US has given the Pakistan's military nearly $20 billion for counter-terrorism campaigns.

The US chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, during his last visit to Islamabad, publicly criticized Pakistan's military for not acting against al-Qaida linked insurgent groups sheltering in Pakistan's tribal region of North Waziristan.

However, last week Pakistan's army chief, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, told the passing out parade of cadets from the Kakul military academy that Pakistan had broken the back of terrorism in the country. The killing of bin Laden within few hundred metres distance from the military academy has evaporated Kiyani's tall claim into thin air.

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