Following is a statement I just received (meant for publication in Pakistani media I assume) from Pakistan’s High Commissioner to UK, Wajid Shamsul Hasan. I am posting without editing:
Ever since the Memo scandal our media mongers whose previous almost daily predictions over the past four years about the demise of the democratic government had fallen flat, seem to have got yet another dose of oxygen in their life-support system. They are now hallucinating and misusing some of my first reactions following OBL operation on May 2, 2011 to launch a charge sheet against me.
A section of the media has even ignored all professional ethics by twisting my clarifications to the media. They have been resorting to cherry picking from my comments to various channels subsequent to Osama’s killing.
The media has ignored the mysterious circumstances in which Osama was killed. I would like to remind them that initially everything was overly shrouded in ambiguity following the OBL operation. Pakistan’s security institutions were subjected to most humiliating comments by some of the leading columnists and TV anchors for having miserably failed to defend the territorial sovereignty of the country.
These renowned columnists and anchors had gone overboard in their criticism of the Pakistan army, the ISI and the government. Their comments were extremely unkind to Pakistan’s security apparatus. I distinctly remember that one of the most vocal editors in Pakistan then editing The Friday Times wrote on May 6th asking: “was the national security establishment doodling” when the American helicopters were operating in Abbottabad. It was even accused of caught “pants down”.
It was, indeed, painful for me to see the unpatriotic dominant narrative. Whatever happens, we must stand together as a nation in unison and not blame each other in a moment of distress. And in the days right after 2nd May, the Pakistani media was doing exactly the opposite and thereby trying to create fissures within the government institutions.
It was distressing for me to see aspersions on Pakistan’s government; its civil and military leadership, that they had known about it prior to the operation. Since little was known of the May 2 operation, my immediate personal view was that as we had been sharing intelligence and co-operating with the US in operations against Al Qaeda since 2002 onwards, we must have been kept in the loop by the US as we were frontline state in war on terror.
But unfortunately we were not. And when we came to know of it I described it as being stabbed in the back by our friends. There could not be a stronger condemnation of the unilateral action of May 2nd than this.
That Pakistan was not taken on board by the United States was later confirmed by American administration when they said that except President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a few others, no one else was taken on board from even within the US government itself.
In my immediate reaction and comments to the media I had claimed that Pakistan had been helping the United States in tracking down Osama and without our help it would not have been possible for the Americans to find him. My above assertion was confirmed by the Government of Pakistan on May 3rd in a press statement that states: “The government of Pakistan recognise that the death of Osama Bin Laden was an important milestone in fight against terrorism and that government of Pakistan and its state institutions have been making serious efforts to bring him to justice.” It was in this background that President Obama in his statement thanked for all the assistance and support extended by Pakistan.
It may be mentioned here that the Government of Pakistan had categorically denied the media reports suggesting that its leadership, civil as well as military, had any prior knowledge of the US operation against OBL on 2nd May 2011.
The above press statement further adds: “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 is also important to mention that CIA and some other friendly intelligence agencies have benefitted 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.”
It was on the basis of our co-operation that CIA was able to track down OBL and the courier who had been frequenting OBL compound.
Had we had sophisticated technical knowhow to know about Osama’s presence in that compound, we would have nabbed him first. However, CIA did it because of its superiority in technology. What hurt us and amounted to stabbing us in the back was that we were not taken on board. This was stated by me time and again. The above is the factual and truthful position. At no stage neither I nor the military or civil leadership knew about the operation.
* The writer is Pakistan’s High Commissioner to UK