Did Pakistan strike a deal with the US in killing Osama Bin Laden?

Did Pakistan strike a deal with the US in killing Osama Bin Laden?

The founder and the leader of Al-Qaeda Osama Bin Laden was killed in a US-led operation involving helicopters and US ground forces in Pakistani city of Abbottabad, 60 km north of Islamabad on 1st May. A source familiar with the operation said Bin Laden was shot in the head. He was buried on the sea within twenty four hours.

The operation was authorised by President Obama on 29th April. The killing ended a nearly 10 year hunt for the mastermind of 9/11 attacks in the US, killing nearly 3,000 people.
US officials said that extensive surveillance of bin Laden’s hideout from a nearby CIA safe house in Abbotabad led to his killing in a Navy Seal operation. Furthermore in an interview with a Pakistan intelligence official, the Yemeni-born wife of Bin Laden Amal Ahmed Abdul Fattah said that they lived there for five years.

The circumstances of bin Laden’s death have raised questions about:
• Whether Pakistani military and intelligence officials knew about bin Laden’s whereabouts, and
• Whether they had shared information with the United States.

One view is that Pakistan did neither share information on Laden with the US nor it knew about the secret raid on the mansion in Abbottabad.

Pakistan is embarrassed to the whole world that Osama Bin Laden was found not in Afghan-Pakistani border areas but living in a mansion for the last five years in a city close to its famous military academy Kakul and Pakistani army garrison.

The presence of Bin Laden in Pakistan demonstrates that Pakistan has been harbouring Bin Laden for years although it publicly denied his presence within Pakistan.

Afghanistan President Karzai claimed that he always believed that Bin Laden was not in Afghanistan but in Pakistan. His claim proved to be true.

Probable Pakistan-US Deal on the raid?

Another argument is advanced that Pakistan knew it but publicly pretended that the Abbotabad house was not in their “radar screen” since 2003 when they raided it.

The US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in her statement on 2nd May said that the U.S.-Pakistan counterterrorism cooperation “helped lead” to the discovery of Osama bin Laden’s hideout near Islamabad. She reportedly stated “Our counter-terrorism cooperation over a number of years now, with Pakistan, has contributed greatly to our efforts to dismantle al-Qaida. And in fact, cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound in which he was hiding. Going forward, we are absolutely committed to continuing that cooperation”

The statement of the US Secretary of State appears to indicate that Pakistan knew the presence of Osama and the subsequent raid on the house in Abbottabad.

It is speculated in some quarters that a deal between Pakistan and the US was secretly struck to allow the US raid on Bin Laden to kill him to preserve its interests in Afghanistan.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have not always seen eye to eye on war against Talibans. Pakistan believes that Afghan war destabilises the country and opposes Karzai policy of allowing India’s increasing influence in the country for its strategic reasons. Furthermore Pakistan claims there cannot be any peace in Afghanistan without Pakistan’s support.

Pakistan’s top priority is to assure that a postwar government in Kabul is responsive to Pakistan’s interests, and the problem is some of the groups among Talibans Pakistan considers desirable are hostile to the United States.

Islamabad is determined to stay in the driver’s seat in shaping the future political setup in Afghanistan and some analysts suggest that Pakistan seeks to completely oust Washington’s influence in any resolution in Afghanistan.

The US seeks a strong and centralized Afghan government commanding a large army that can control its territory. Pakistan, on the other hand, is pressing for a loosely governed Afghanistan where it can influence even through some of Taliban proxies as reported in the New York Times.

This disconnect has led Pakistan and the United States to work at cross-purposes in Afghanistan.

President Karzai realizes that the commitment to deploy US troops in Afghanistan is not open-ended any more. It has a time limit and Afghan politicians and security forces have to take responsibility to stabilize the country.

President Karzai realized that a reconciliation move with moderate Talibans is imperative before the US withdraws its soldiers from Afghanistan. The US reportedly supports the move.
On 16th April, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has held talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul. Mr Gilani was joined by his armed forces chief, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and the head of the intelligence agency, Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha.

Both leaders have vowed to boost joint peace efforts towards Taliban fighters. .At a news conference in Kabul the two leaders said that a new Afghanistan-Pakistan joint commission is being upgraded to accelerate and promote a peace process.

A High Peace Council was constituted by President Karzai and a top Afghan government official has recently confirmed that this country’s government has been in peace talks with the Talibans.

There have been numerous reports of recent talks being carried out between the Talibans and other interested parties, including Britain, Germany, Norway and the US and the US Congress last year earmarked $100 million for peace efforts. European countries have pledged an additional $150 million.

Karzai and Gilani said Saudi Arabia and Turkey could be involved in aiding future talks.

Turkey is working to open a political office for the Taliban in Istanbul, which could help facilitate negotiations to end the war, a close aide to the Turkish

Given the above scenario, it is speculated that Pakistan allowed the US to kill its enemy number one Osama Bin Laden on the following understanding among others:
• The US will withdraw its forces from Afghanistan since Osama bin Laden was killed.
• The US will support the peace talks with the Taliban who would sever links with A-Qaeda.
• There will be election in Afghanistan once the peace talks are successful and if Taliban wins the election, they will form the government. Thus Pakistan interests are safeguarded by eliminating Indian influence in Afghanistan.
• When Taliban forms the government, certain women rights will be preserved such as in, voting, education and employment sectors.

Pakistan is in a dilemma. If it admits, it will be damned and if it denies it will be also damned. So it denied its role in the raid. However, very few will believe that Pakistan intelligence officials did not know about Osama’s presence and the US raid on the mansion in Abottabad.
Although on 5th May, Pakistan’s army publicly threatened to reconsider its anti-terrorism cooperation with the United States if Washington carried out another unilateral attack like the killing of Osama bin Laden, many observers believe that the statement is meant for domestic consumption and a face-saving device to defend the accusation of not protecting Pakistan’s territorial sovereignty by the US.
It is interesting to note that on 6th May, the Pakistan’s intelligence chief has rushed to Washington to discuss matters of mutual interest. The visit appears to indicate that the relations between the two countries are cooperative and mutually beneficial.

By Barrister Harun ur Rashid
Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.

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