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Musharraf admits ‘slip-up’ on Osama, defends army

May 6, 2011

Rahul Kanwal  | New Delhi, May 6, 2011

Former president General Pervez Musharraf on Friday strongly defended the Pakistani army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) saying they could not be blamed for the ‘slip-up’ that saw the Al Qaeda chief, Osama bin Laden, residing in the country’s garrison town Abbottabad until the US forces killed him on Monday.

Talking to Headlines Today over phone from Dubai, Musharraf failed to provide many answers that India has been looking for. He however, did concede that as the former head of the military and ex-president of Pakistan he was embarrassed that Laden was found inside his country.

Asked about his statement at India Today Conclave three years ago that Laden was either dead or hiding in Afghanistan, Musharraf said, “I don’t remember having, as you said very confidently, I declared that he is dead and he is not in Pakistan. I don’t think I ever did that. I always used to put it in doubt that I don’t know… have information or intelligence. He could be anywhere. I used to get agitated when people used to say that he is in Pakistan. Really, I was never confident of his whereabouts. He could be anywhere, it could be Afghanistan or Pakistan or anywhere.”

“As far as dead or alive, yes, I used to say that he was a dialysis patient and therefore I don’t know whether he is dead or alive. I never once did I say that he has died or anything,” he added.

On existence of Laden in Pakistan’s military area Musharraf said, “Let me give three possibilities. Firstly, there was complicity by the intelligence agencies that they are harbouring him. I reject that for the reason that even President Obama has very clearly said that he is grateful to the Pakistani intelligence for having provided the leads. Now I would like you to ask him what were the leads. How is he thanking our intelligence agencies? What I know, maybe, some intercepts going from here to somebody abroad were provided by the ISI to the CIA. So if that was the case, why would ISI or intelligence agencies of Pakistan provide such leads if they were harbouring him? So I reject that.”

“The other is a possibility of a lower operative having known or involved without the permission or against the policies of intelligence agencies, or the army or the government. That I rule out because if at all he was there, as people say, for a long time then people keep changing.”

“The third one is not knowing… you call it incompetence or whatever. That is a possibility after all Bombay also took place after 9/11. Media always used to get after the intelligence agencies, the military or the government. What were the intelligence agencies doing? Such slip-ups do happen. It is very regrettable, it is terrible,” general added.

Asked again about Laden’s lair in the military area Musharraf said, “Having been trained in the guerrilla warfare, I think one of the best place to hide either is mountains which are inaccessible or the best place to hide is in cities, populated areas. That is the best place to hide, you wouldn’t be known. Thirdly, I may say, if there is a bold person, I think near to the bigger enemy is quite a safe place because there is a degree of complacency around the compound.”

He strongly objected to the army being called ‘incompetent’ in the wake of the ‘slip-up’, as Musharraf himself admitted.

“Let’s first differentiate intelligence agencies from army. Army is not incompetent. Intelligence agencies and within those agencies the operative who were responsible for the area… they are incompetent. Let’s focus on to that because the agency has shown tremendous amount of competence and in umpteen number of cases all over Pakistan, on international issues. So let’s not absolutely write off the intelligence agency and more than that involve the army in incompetence,” Musharraf said.

Source: India Today

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