Five years after Osama bin Laden was discovered and killed on its soil, Pakistan continues to be haunted by his ghost.
Islamabad has long claimed that it knew nothing of the al-Qaeda founder’s presence in the country. Now the latest defence of the government comes from Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Jalil Abbas Jilani, who has reacted strongly to US Congressman Ted Poe’s opposition to the House of Representatives’ recent decision to increase American aid to Pakistan from US$700 million to US$900 million.
Poe, who alleges that for 15 years Pakistan and its notorious Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has been supporting the Taliban and other terrorists – including offering safe haven to bin Laden – and continues to support militant groups that target US troops in Afghanistan, was voted down in what is seen as a bid to wean Pakistan away from China.
In a recent op-ed in US News, the Republican Congressman asserted: ‘Pakistan cannot be trusted. It has played us now for a total of US$33 billion of our money since 2001… We do not need to give Pakistan a raise to betray us. They will do it for free.’
This elicited an astonishing response from Ambassador Jilani, who said that Osama bin Laden had considered Pakistan an enemy and made every effort to harm the country and its people.
In a letter to Poe published widely in the Pakistani media, Jilani insisted ‘it has been established beyond doubt’ that bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad without the state’s knowledge or assistance, despite the fact that this high-security garrison town is situated deep within Pakistan, not on the more easily accessible border with Afghanistan.
The Ambassador also said that ‘the US leadership involved in the specific operation at that time [to find bin Laden] has clearly rejected any insinuation of Pakistan’s complicity’, and documents collected from bin Laden’s compound, released by the US Director of National Intelligence in March this year, apparently outlined al-Qaeda’s plans to destroy its ‘enemy’ Pakistan.
Yet these documents are contested, just as the raid on bin Laden’s hideaway is contested, and one must wonder if sections of the American establishment are backing Pakistan’s version of events as part of a US policy to lure Pakistan away from Communist China’s aid and influence.
As evidence that, according to Jalil Abbas Jilani, Pakistan is the world’s biggest victim of terrorism, he cites the 25-month-long Zarb-e-Azb military operation in which 3,500 militants and 500 Pakistani Army personnel have been killed.
‘Being the worst victim of terrorism and having lost thousands of innocent citizens and soldiers to this menace, our own resolve to defeat this threat can never be doubted,’ he wrote.
This claim came two days after 12 Pakistanis were detained in Saudi Arabia after a 13th blew himself up in a Jeddah car park at the end of Ramadan. Perhaps Pakistan’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia will have similar defences ready.