JEDDAH: Al-Qaeda’s chief Osama Bin Laden’s hiding in Pakistan was intelligence failure, said Interior Minister Abdul Rehman Malik in an interview with Arabic News in Jeddah, SAMAA reported on Monday.
“Those who doubt Pakistan’s sincerity in war on terrorism should answer: who had created Osama Bin Laden to combat Russians in Afghanistan?” he questioned.
He said the killing of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan has strengthened our resolve to fight the menace of terrorism with renewed vigor.
Al-Qaeda chief Bin Laden was killed in a US military operation in Abbottabad last Monday.
Speaking to Arab News about the much-talked-about failure of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to locate the terror mastermind who supposedly stayed in his Abbottabad hideout for five years, the minister admitted: “It was an intelligence failure.
Sometimes it happens, but I assure our allies that he was not being protected by any government agency.”
He said that 9/11 also happened due to intelligence failure. “Not only 9/11, I can cite dozens of other incidents the world over in which spy agencies failed to see terrorists’ designs, which led to attacks. That does not mean that those agencies protected terrorists.”
Malik ruled out the possibility of anyone, either from the political leadership or from the military top brass, stepping down for the “intelligence failure.”
“Why would anyone resign? How many people resigned after 9/11 in the US? No heads will roll in Pakistan in the aftermath of Bin Laden’s killing in Abbottabad,” he said, adding: “This is not the time for blame game but rather to be introspective, to find out the holes and plug them.”
Malik denied reports that ISI chief Shuja Pasha was in the US to meet his counterpart and explain the situation and reassure America about Pakistan’s resolve to fight terrorism. “No way. I assure you Shuja Pasha is in Pakistan doing his duty.” The minister, however, admitted that there was a trust deficit between the US and Pakistan which sometimes fuels theories.
Taking a swipe at the US, the minister said: “Let me ask those who are blaming us for Bin Laden’s presence in our country one simple question: Who created Bin Laden and sent him to fight Russians? We never invited him to Pakistan.
He went there with hundreds of other Arab fighters to wage a jihad against Russian forces, and the world knows who supported those jihadists,” he added. During the Russian occupation of Afghanistan, the US intelligence agency CIA reportedly supported and funded the jihadists.
Asked about the fate of Bin Laden’s family members detained from the Abbottabad compound, the minister said: “They are in our custody, but I will not reveal their whereabouts and will also not share with the media their exact number.”
Asked about the whereabouts of Indian mafia don, a chief suspect in 1992 Mumbai bomb blasts, Dawood Ibrahim, the minister denied having any information. Asked what would be Pakistan’s reaction if India also carried out an operation similar to that of the US on Pakistani soil to take out Dawood, Malik said: “We will give India a befitting reply.”
The minister stated that Pakistan has been a victim of terrorism and not a promoter of it.
“We have suffered more than any country due to terrorism. Thousands of innocent civilians have been killed by Al-Qaeda. But due to a sustained fight we have been able to contain it considerably. The incidents of suicide attacks have declined.
Malik assured Pakistan's allies, the US and Saudi Arabia, as well as other countries, that an extensive investigation has been ordered to know the circumstances that enabled Bin Laden to stay in the country undetected and also to find out about the truth behind Abbottabad’s operation.
He said: “Although we were not informed about the operation by the US, it was our input that led Americans to that house who finally tracked down Bin Laden and killed him.”
Earlier, addressing students at the Pakistan International School (English Section), Malik emphasized that terrorism could not be defeated by military actions alone.
“We need to address the root cause and try to deradicalize our youth by addressing pressing issues and giving them the correct information and opportunities.
Malik called Saudi-Pak relations “rock-solid” and said that both the countries cooperate on various issues of mutual interest. AGENCIES/SAMAA