Pakistan’s former spy chief has told Al Jazeera that the country’s intelligence services most likely sheltered Osama bin Laden in the years leading up to his death in a US raid.
Lieutenant General Asad Durrani told Al Jazeera’s Mehdi Hasan he doubted the official line given by Pakistan’s intelligence services, the ISI, that it was unaware of the al-Qaeda leader’s whereabouts until his death, implying that Pakistan would only have exchanged knowledge of his location in a quid-pro-quo deal.
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“I cannot say exactly what happened but … it is quite possible that they [the ISI] did not know but it was more probable that they did,” Durrani said.
Durrani, who served as director general of the ISI from 1990 to 1992, asserted that Bin Laden was handed over in exchange for an agreement on “how to bring the Afghan problem to an end”.
Asked whether Bin Laden’s compound was an ISI safe house, Durrani responded: “If ISI was doing that, then I would say they were doing a good job. And if they revealed his location, they again probably did what was required to be done.”
Pakistan’s role questioned
Officially, the ISI maintains that it did not harbour Bin Laden and played no part in the May 2011 raid.
However, commentators have questioned how Bin Laden could have eluded the intelligence agency in the years leading up to his discovery, given the location of his compound in the garrison town of Abbottabad.
According to the US, the raid on Bin Laden’s compound was deliberately conducted without the knowledge of the Pakistani government or its military.
The Abbottabad Commission, which was set up by Pakistan to investigate the circumstances surrounding the raid, charged the military and the government with “gross incompetence” leading to “collective failures” that enabled Bin Laden to reside in Pakistan unnoticed.
The ISI had previously helped the CIA detain a number of high-ranking suspects, including Ramzi Yousef, one of the men who planned the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The full Al Jazeera interview with Durrani will air in April 2015 as part of the fourth series of Head to Head, Mehdi Hasan’s interview show.