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Monday, May 9, 2011

PM says Pakistan not al Qaida birthplace

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has rejected allegations that national authorities were either complicit in hiding Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden or incompetent in tracking him down.

Gilani defended the country during an address to Parliament on Monday, a week after a raid by U.S. navy SEALs in the Pakistani garrison city of Abbottabad killed the US most wanted.

He dispelled the impression that armed forces and government institutions are not on same pages “no one should be in confusion that there are differences between the government and the ISI or Pakistan army leadership”.

Gilani announced to hold in-camera joint session of the Parliament on May 13 to brief the Parliamentarians by officials of the security agencies on the incident.

The PM addressed the house in an effort to defuse pressure by people and political over the killing of Osama bin Laden, amid U.S. pressure over the al Qaeda leader's hideout.

PML-N, the main opposition party, is stepping up calls for the prime minister and president to resign over the breach of sovereignty by U.S. special forces who slipped in from Afghanistan to storm the compound where bin Laden was holed up.

"We want resignations, not half-baked explanations," an official of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League said today.

He said media talkshows and public debates have missed essential points on Bin Laden killing.

The PM welcomed the death of bin Laden as a step in the fight against militancy but also complained that the U.S. helicopter raid to kill him was a violation of Pakistan’s its sovereignty.

“Elimination of Osama who was responsible to killing of thousands of innocent people is indeed justice done.”

Pointing a finger at the US he asked who created the myth of bin Laden, and questioned who was responsible for the birth of al Qaida?

“We must look into this questions…Pakistan is not the birthplace of al Qaida nor we invited Bin Laden here, but rather we carried out operation in the tribal areas and arrested more than 280 al Qaida operatives in our country”.

He said US bombing on Afghanistan’s Tora Bora mountains led to birth of the militant organization whose leaders sought everywhere, including Pakistan.

He admitted that Osama’s presence in Pakistan was its agencies’ intelligence failure but said “ISI is a national asset and it is duly backed by the government. The ISI cannot be blamed," he said.

Gilani also warned against unilateral actions by outsiders on his country's soil but said Islamabad's relationship with the U.S. remains strong. “Any attack on Pakistan will have a matching response”.

Ruling out allegations on Pakistan to provide support to militants, Gilani said Pakistan has lost 33,000 people, 5,000 armed personnel and billions of dollars in the US-led war against terrorism. “War on terror is our national priority”, he affirmed.

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