Pakistan PM to address bin Laden debacle

Gilani to "take nation into confidence" as Obama speculates al Qaeda leader may have had Pakistani "support network".

    Pakistani leaders are under pressure from both an anti-American public and the US over bin Laden's killing [Reuters]

    Pakistan's prime minister is set to brief parliament on the US operation that killed Osama bin Laden, his first public statement since the attack embarrassed the country and raised fears of a new rift between Islamabad and Washington.

    Yusuf Raza Gilani is expected to "take the nation into confidence" in parliament on Monday, an official told the AFP news agency, amid deepening suspicion in the US that Pakistani officials may have had ties with the al-Qaeda leader.

    Pakistanis have expressed anger at the perceived impunity of the American raid on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad - apparently conducted without Pakistani knowledge - but also questioned whether their military was too incompetent to know bin Laden was in the area, or conspired to protect him.

    Pakistan's government has adamantly denied the allegations, pointing to the fact that the US could not have conducted the raid without key intelligence provided by Pakistan.

    The debacle has embarrassed Pakistan's powerful military establishment and left the civilian leadership reeling.

    "Gilani will speak in detail on various aspects of the operation, Pakistan's sacrifices in the war against terrorism and its future strategy to deal with the menace," the senior official told AFP.

    Tariq Pirzada, a political commentator in Islamabad, told Al Jazeera that Gilani's speech will likely emphasize on the "sizeable contribution" Pakistan has made to the war on terror, and on the other hand explain how the Pakistani government "failed at a political level".

    "The reaction from Gilani to Obama is going to be: Look, we cooperated with you for the last 10 years, we have made sacrifices and contributions to the war against terror," he said.

    "There was obviously intelligence failure, however, we are thoroughly investigating this matter."

    'Pointing fingers'

    Al Jazeera's Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan's capital, said the big question was how Gilani would apportion blame for the episode.

    "The question is, will he do the unthinkable? Will he point the finger at the military for not being aware that the US was able to carry out this operation in the early hours of Monday morning last week?" he asked.

    "Will he do the surprising, by pointing the finger at the ISI, the spy agency, for not being aware that bin Laden was living here, accusing them of incompetence?

    "Or will he do the risky and point the finger at the US for breaching Pakistan's sovereignty?"

    Shaukat Qadir, a retired military brigadier, told Al Jazeera that the blame rested with "all parties" because the house bin Laden was reportedly living in should have been under surveillance since it had a history of being an al-Qaeda hideout.

    "When the particular house bin Laden was living in was under construction in 2003, it was first raided by the ISI to catch a senior al-Qaeda leader.

    "So if this was under suspicion in 2003, how could it not remain under surveilance now?"

    But Qadir denied speculation voiced by Barack Obama, the US president, in interviews on Sunday that bin Laden may have benefitted from official support within Pakistan.

    "I am sure bin Laden had a support network in the country, but if [Obama's] pointing fingers at the officials and saying there was official support, I don't think that existed," he said.

    The main opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Nawaz), is demanding a full investigation into the breakdown in intelligence and has called for the government to accept any responsibilities that may be unearthed, a spokesman said.

    "We want a serious probe to fix responsibility for an intelligence failure and objective steps that such negligence is not repeated in future," he said.

    Obama said it would take investigations by Pakistan and the US to find out the extent of support within the country for bin Laden.

    "We think there had to be some sort of support network for bin Laden inside of Pakistan," Obama said in an interview with CBS's 60 Minutes programme.

    "But we don't know who or what that support network was. We don't know whether there might have been some people inside of government, people outside of government, and that's something that we have to investigate and, more importantly, the Pakistani government has to investigate."

    Pakistan's government had "indicated they have a profound interest in finding out what kinds of support networks bin Laden might have had", Obama said.

    "But these are questions that we're not going to be able to answer three or four days after the event. It's going to take some time for us to be able to exploit the intelligence that we were able to gather on site."

    'Heads will roll'

    Afghan official points the finger at Pakistan's military-security agencies following bin Laden's killing near Islamabad

    Pakistan says it has paid the highest price in human life and money supporting the US war on militancy launched after bin Laden's followers staged the September 11, 2001, attacks.

    Pakistan's ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, told ABC's This Week that his government would act on the
    results of an investigation into bin Laden's presence in the country.

    "And heads will roll, once the investigation has been completed," he said.

    "Now, if those heads are rolled on account of incompetence, we will share that information with you. And if, God forbid, somebody's complicity is discovered, there will be zero tolerance for that, as well."

    Haqqani said Pakistan had "many jihadi has-beens from the 1980s who are still alive and well and kicking, and some of them could have been helping them, but they are not in the state or government of Pakistan today".

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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