Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pakistanis doubt government claims about knowledge of bin Laden

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

LAHORE, Pakistan ? Farhan Masood feels like many Pakistanis on the subject of Osama bin Laden: He's having a hard time believing the government's claim that it had no idea the al-Qaeda mastermind was living for years in a nice town with a large military base an hour's drive from the capital.

  • Pakistanis along with international and local media gather Tuesday outside Osama bin Laden's compound, where he was killed during a raid by U.S. special forces.

    Getty Images

    Pakistanis along with international and local media gather Tuesday outside Osama bin Laden's compound, where he was killed during a raid by U.S. special forces.

Getty Images

Pakistanis along with international and local media gather Tuesday outside Osama bin Laden's compound, where he was killed during a raid by U.S. special forces.

"Nothing can happen of any sort without the involvement of officials anywhere," said Masood, who runs SoloTech, a company involved in retinal- and facial-recognition technology. "We believe that Osama bin Laden was not killed in Pakistan. If he was killed, then where is the footage? The photos of the incident?"

The Pakistan government appeared Wednesday to issue conflicting accounts of what it knew and when it knew it, angering Pakistanis who admire bin Laden and and those who did not care for him. Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, breaking his silence on the subject, said his government was in the dark as were others.

"There is an intelligence failure of the whole world, not Pakistan alone," Gilani said during a visit in Paris.

Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir told the BBC on Wednesday that Pakistan had informed the United States as far back as in 2009 about its suspicions of the occupants in the home in Abbottabad. Bin Laden had been living at the compound for at least five years and was killed there early Monday in a raid by U.S. special forces.

"Of course they (the U.S.) have a much more sophisticated equipment to evaluate and to assess," he said as to why Pakistan did not act on its suspicions.

Many Pakistanis believe they know why.

"At the lower level, there are elements within the security establishment who have sympathies with the anti-U.S. extremist forces," said Farooq Tariq, a labor leader in Lahore.

"To say the least, this was a gross inefficiency on the part of our intelligence agencies," said Zaman Khan, a human rights activist.

The home is short walk from the elite Pakistan Military Academy at Kakul, near Abbottabad and not far from a neighborhood where many military families and retired officers live. The Pakistani who owned the compound that was Osama bin Laden's final hideaway had bought up adjoining plots of land over two years and once told a seller that the property he bought for "an uncle" had become very valuable, according to the Associated Press.

Property records obtained by the AP on Wednesday show that a man named Mohammed Arshad bought the land where bin Laden's compound was built between 2004 and 2005 and paid $48,000.

U.S. officials have identified the courier who led the Americans to in Laden as Sheik Abu Ahmed, a Pakistani born in Kuwait. They obtained his name from detainees held in secret CIA prison sites in Eastern Europe and vetted it with top al-Qaeda operatives such as 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the AP reported.

U.S. officials said the courier and his brother were killed in the commando raid on the compound early Monday.

One of bin Laden's daughters, who said she saw U.S. forces shooting her father, is in Pakistani custody, said a Pakistani intelligence official, speaking to the AP on condition of anonymity in line with the agency's policy. At least 10 people, including six or seven children, and a woman, are in Pakistani custody, he said.

For many Pakistanis, it's hard to believe the three-story house with 16-foot-high outer walls unusual for the neighborhood could have remained out of sight of security agencies.

"People were skeptical in this neighborhood about this place and these guys. They used to gossip, say they were smugglers or drug dealers," said farmer Mashood Khan, 45. "People would complain that even with such a big house they didn't invite the poor or distribute charity."

The Pakistani government refuted charges that the house should have tipped it off as a possible terrorist hide-out. "It needs to be appreciated that many houses (in the northwest) have high boundary walls, in line with their culture of privacy and security," the government said. "Houses with such layout and structural details are not a rarity."

Like many towns where the army has a strong presence, the streets of Abbottabad are well-groomed. Street signs tell residents to "Love Pakistan." The city is known for its good schools, including some established by Christian missionaries. Girls wear veils while carrying Hannah Montana backpacks to school.

Many houses in the outlying areas have modern amenities but are located on streets covered with trash. Shepherds herd their flocks of sheep along dusty roads just a few hundred yards from modern banks.

"That house was obviously a suspicious one," said Jahangir Khan, who was buying a newspaper in Abbottabad. "Either it was a complete failure of our intelligence agencies or they were involved in this affair."

Still others say the failure was to permit bin Laden's death.

Thousands of people congregated at funeral prayers for bin Laden held in Karachi and Lahore. Hafiz Saeed, the leader of the outlawed Islamic organization Lashkar-e-Taiba, led the prayers and said bin Laden died a martyr to Islam.

Contributing: Aisha Chowdhry

Posted | Updated

Powered By | Full Text RSS Feed | Amazon Plugin | Hud Settlement Statement


Post a Comment