Pak Hits Back, Says It Cooperated in War on Terror

Lalit K Jha and Rezaul H Laskar/Washington/Islamabad
Pak Hits Back, Says It Cooperated in War on Terror
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553
The US today came out with a sharp statement refusing to believe that slain terrorist Osama bin Laden had no support system in Pakistan, which hit back saying the success of the Abbottabad operation was because of its longstanding cooperation.

Pakistan government went a step further to call the commando operation an "unauthorised, unilateral action" without its knowledge but remained silent on the point whether its establishment and intelligence agencies knew the presence of al-Qaeda chief in Abbottabad and whether he was enjoying any support system.

With a top US official suggesting Washington may probe if there were any official links to the support system bin Laden had for living in Abbottabad, a Pakistan government statement late in the night said its army and intelligence agencies have played a vital role in breaking the back of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups in the country as well as in the world.

"I think it's inconceivable that bin Laden did not have a support system in the country that allowed him to remain there for an extended period of time," US Deputy National Security Adviser for Counter-terrorism and Homeland Security John Brennan told reporters at a crowded White House news conference in Washington.

"I am not going to speculate about what type of support he might have had on an official basis inside of Pakistan," he said.

In its statement, the Pakistan government said it recognised that bin Laden's death is an important milestone in fight against terrorism and that its state institutions had been making serious efforts to bring him to justice.

Apparently answering questions on whether the establishment had harboured bin Laden in Abbottabad, living close to a military academy, the statement said Abbottabad and the surrounding areas have been under sharp focus of intelligence agencies since 2003 resulting in highly technical operation by ISI which led to the arrest of "high value al-Qaeda target in 2004."

"As far as the target compound is concerned, ISI had been sharing information with CIA and other friendly intelligence agencies since 2009. The intelligence flow indicating some foreigners in the surroundings of Abbottabad, continued till mid-April 2011. It is important to highlight that taking advantage of much superior technological assets, CIA exploited the intelligence leads given by us to identify and reach Osama bin Laden, a fact also acknowledged by the US President and Secretary of State, in their statements," it said.

The statement said it was important to mention that CIA and some other friendly intelligence agencies have benefited a great deal from the intelligence provided by ISI. "ISI's own achievements against al-Qaeda and in war on terror are more than any other intelligence agency in the World."

The Pakistan Foreign Ministry statement denied the media reports that suggested that its leadership, civil as well as military, had any prior knowledge of the US operation against bin Laden carried out in the early hours of Monday.

"Reports about US helicopters taking off from Ghazi Airbase are absolutely false and incorrect. Neither any base or facility inside Pakistan was used by the US Forces, nor Pakistan Army provided any operational or logistic assistance to these operations conducted by the US Forces," it said.

US helicopters entered Pakistani airspace making use of blind spots in the radar coverage due to hilly terrain, it said.

"US helicopters' undetected flight into Pakistan was also facilitated by the mountainous terrain, efficacious use of latest technology and 'nap of the earth' flying techniques. It may not be realistic to draw an analogy between this undefended civilian area and some military/security installations which have elaborate local defence arrangements."

On receipt of information regarding the incident, Pakistan Air Force scrambled its jets within minutes, the statement said. "This has been corroborated by the White House Adviser Mr John Brennan who while replying to a question said, 'We didn't contact the Pakistanis until after all of our people, all of our aircraft were out of Pakistani airspace'."

There has been a lot of discussion about the nature of the targeted compound, particularly its high walls and its vicinity to the areas housing Pakistan army elements, the statement noted.

"It needs to be appreciated that many houses occupied by the affectees of operations in FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas)-KPK (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province), have high boundary walls, in line with their culture of privacy and security. Houses with such layout and structural details are not a rarity."

"Questions have also been asked about the whereabouts of the family members of Osama bin Laden. They are all in safe hands and being looked after in accordance with law. Some of them needing medical care are under treatment in the best possible facilities. As per policy, they will be handed over to their countries of origin," it said.

The statement said the government expresses its deep concerns and reservations on the manner in which the US carried out this operation without prior information or authorisation from Pakistan.

"This event of unauthorised unilateral action cannot be taken as a rule. The government of Pakistan further affirms that such an event shall not serve as a future precedent for any state, including the US. Such actions undermine cooperation and may also sometime constitute threat to international peace and security," it said.

The statement said that Pakistan, being mindful of its international obligations, has been extending full and proper cooperation on all counter-terrorism efforts, including exchange of information and intelligence. "Pursuant to such cooperation, Pakistan had arrested several high profile terrorists."

Pakistan government and its armed forces consider support of the people of Pakistan to be their mainstay and actual strength, it said.

"Any actions contrary to their aspirations, therefore, run against the very basis on which the edifice of national defence and security is based," the statement said.

Pakistan army and intelligence agencies, it said, have played "a pivotal role in breaking the back of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations in Pakistan as well as around the world."

"Most of the successes achieved by the US and some other friendly countries have been the result of effective intelligence cooperation and extremely useful military support by Pakistan. The government of Pakistan and its security forces have resolved to continue their fight against terrorism till people of Pakistan can live in peace and security," the statement said.

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari also rejected as "baseless" allegations that his country extended safe haven to extremists and maintained that Islamabad's long-term help was crucial to the US victory in eliminating bin Laden.

In an opinion column titled Pakistan did its part published in the Washington Post, Zardari insisted that the whereabouts of the al-Qaeda leader were not known to the Pakistani authorities.

"Some in the US press have suggested that Pakistan lacked vitality in its pursuit of terrorism, or worse yet that we were disingenuous and actually protected the terrorists we claimed to be pursuing," he said.

"Such baseless speculation may make exciting cable news, but it doesn't reflect fact."
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