Pakistan prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Monday rejected allegations that the ISI had a hand in hiding al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden and described the spy agency as a “national asset” .
Gilani’s forceful defence came a week after US Navy Seals killed bin Laden in Abbottabad and amid mounting pressure on Islamabad to explain whether ISI had helped the terror mastermind hide in plain sight next to a military academy. The country’s all-powerful military establishment has perhaps for the first time been derided at home for not being able to detect the US soldiers until they had left.
“Allegations of complicity or incompetence are absurd. It is disingenuous for anyone to accuse Pakistan including its spy agency of being in cahoots with al-Qaida ,” Gilani told parliament . “We did not invite Osama bin Laden to Pakistan or even to Afghanistan.”
He said Pakistan has confidence in its military, intelligence services and denied any differences among state institutions . “Army and the ISI are on same page. All state institutions are in complete harmony ,” he said. Gilani said Pakistan has ordered an investigation into how bin Laden was able to live in the garrison city undetected. The PM said bin Laden’s killing was justice as he was responsible for killing thousands of Pakistanis.
“Pakistan is not al-Qaida’s birthplace and could not be held accountable alone for the creation of the terror network,” he said. He said the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan led to al-Qaida’s birth with the world’s support. He reiterated that Pakistan would not relent in its fight against terror. “( Our) commitment (to the war on terror is) a national priority,” he said.
Gilani insisted that Islamabad’s relationship with the US remains strong but warned against unilateral action. Gilani called for intelligence sharing and an end to the blamegame . He warned that any attack – overt or covert – against Pakistan will get a matching response. Economic Times