ISLAMABAD – Former Pakistan defence minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar has admitted that the Pakistan government knew that Osama Bin Laden resided in the country.
In an interview to CNN-IBN on TV, Mukhtar, who was defence minister under the Yousuf Raza Gilani government, said that the whole Pakistani establishment including President Asif Ali Zardari, PM Gilani, the ISI and the army chiefs knew about the presence of Laden on Pakistani soil.
“Some people knew, people in the Pakistan Army as well as people in the other forces they also knew it and they were on the lookout for somebody of the stature of Osama Bin Laden,” Mukhtar told CNN-IBN.
The United States Navy Seals killed Osama Bin Laden in a raid at his Abbottabad residence in 2011, sparking outrage from Pakistan. At the time, Pakistan had denied any knowledge of Laden’s existence in the country. “I categorically deny any role, any assistance from any Pak official or establishment.
The way he hid himself, we could not identify him,” Rehman Malik, the then interior minister had said.
Former Pakistani Army chief and dictator General Pervez Musharraf had also claimed innocence:
“As far as I am concerned, I am 500% sure that I did not know, whether anyone believes it or not. So I am clear there is no complicity. And I am also clear that army and ISI could not have hidden it from me. Because I am from them and they are from me,” he had said in October 2011.
Mukhtar added to CNN-IBN that Pakistan had hoped that if Osama was found, he would merely commit suicide.
“If you are trying to get hold of a gentleman who has been hiding away in the mountains for more than 15-18 years, then these kind of people are difficult to be found and once you find them they normally don’t live after that. They attempt committing suicide. They would attempt to finish off their bodies by just killing themselves. I don’t know why he didn’t run away himself?”, he said.
Meanwhile, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor slammed Pakistan.
“The mendacity of Pakistan government has been exposed. It was obvious, the compound in which Osama was living could not have been built without Pakistan army’s help,” said Tharoor.
“The Pervez Musharraf government ran a disinformation campaign about Osama. Abbottabad compound could not have been built without the knowledge of Pak army. There’s probably more to the story, the question is to what level,” Tharoor concluded.