Ex-US President George W Bush and Pakistan military leader Pervez Musharraf struck a secret deal a decade back allowing a unilateral American operation on Pakistani soil in search of Osama bin Laden similar to the raid that killed the al-Qaeda leader, a media report said.
The deal permitting a US strike in Pakistan if bin Laden was found in that country was struck after he eluded capture and escaped US forces in the mountains of Tora Bora in late 2001, British newspaper Guardian reported quoting serving and retired Pakistani and US officials.
Under the deal, Pakistan would allow US forces to conduct a unilateral raid on its soil in search of bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri. Afterwards, both sides agreed, Pakistan would vociferously protest the incursion, the paper said.
"There was an agreement between Bush and Musharraf that if we knew where Osama was, we were going to come and get him," said a former senior US official familiar with the counter-terrorism operations. "The Pakistanis would put up a hue and cry, but they wouldn't stop us."
Musharraf, a former President of Pakistan, has denied the existence of any "secret deal" between him and Bush.
"There was never a verbal or written agreement on this (deal). There is no truth to the Guardian article," he said while rejecting the media report.
Musharraf also left a message on his Facebook page, denying that such an agreement had been signed.
"The accusation of my having allowed intrusion into Pakistan by US forces chasing Osama Bin Laden is absolutely baseless. Never has this subject even been discussed between myself and President Bush leave aside allowing such freedom of action that would violate our sovereignty," he said.
A senior Pakistani official said it had been struck under Musharraf and renewed by the army during the "transition to democracy" - a six-month period from February 2008 when Musharraf was still president but a civilian government had been elected.
Referring to the killing of bin Laden in Abbottabad compound inside Pakistan, the Pakistani official said: "As far as our American friends are concerned, they have just implemented the agreement."
A former US official quoted by the paper said the Pakistani protests of the past week were the "public face" of the deal. "We knew they would deny this stuff."
The deal puts a new complexion on the political storm triggered by bin Laden's death, with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani strongly protesting the raid and warning that "Pakistan reserves the right to retaliate with full force."
54-year-old bin Laden was killed by the US special forces in a secret operation in the garrison town, 80 kms from Pakistani capital Islamabad, on May one. Pakistan has said it was "intelligence-driven operation by the US" and it was not informed prior to the raid.
Had No Deal with US on Osama Raid: Musharraf
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