New York: A former chief of Pakistan’s ISI, Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, knew of Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan and knew that banned terror outfit, LeT, and its founder Hafiz Saeed, were in regular contact with him.
Soon after the US Navy SEAL raid on bin Laden’s house, “a Pakistani official told me the US had direct evidence that the ISI chief, Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, knew of Bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad,” the New York Times reported in an article by senior journalist Carlotta Gall.
“The information came from a senior US official, and I guessed that the Americans had intercepted a phone call of Pasha’s or one about him in the days after the raid,” Gall wrote in the article titled ‘What Pakistan Knew About Bin Laden’, adapted from the book “The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014′, to be published next month.
Gall covered Afghanistan and Pakistan for the paper from 2001 to 2013.
“He knew of Osama’s whereabouts, yes,” the Pakistani official was quoted as saying.
“Pasha was always their blue-eyed boy,” the official said, adding he was surprised to learn this.
Reacting to the NYT report, Pakistani intelligence sources dismissed it as “baseless”.
“There is no truth in the NYT report. It is a totally baseless story. Nobody in Pakistan knew about the presence of Osama bin Laden,” a Pakistani intelligence source said.
The report added that the haul of handwritten notes, letters, computer files and other information collected from bin Laden’s house during the raid revealed regular correspondence “between Bin Laden and a string of militant leaders who must have known he was living in Pakistan, including Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a pro-Kashmiri group that has also been active in Afghanistan, and Mullah Omar of the Taliban”.
“Saeed and Omar are two of the ISI’s most important and loyal militant leaders. Both are protected by the agency. Both cooperate closely with it, restraining their followers from attacking the Pakistani state and coordinating with Pakistan’s greater strategic plans.
“Any correspondence the two men had with Bin Laden would probably have been known to their ISI handlers,” it said.
Saeed, who is wanted by Indian security agencies in connection with the 2008 Mumbai attacks, also denied the report. He came live on various TV channels in Pakistan besides using his twitter handle to deny the charges.
Bin Laden was shot dead by US commandos in May 2012 in a unilateral raid by them, catching the Pakistanis by surprise.
It was always suspected that some on the Pakistani establishment knew bin Laden’s whereabouts as he was living a stone-throw away from the military academy in Abbottabad.
“According to one inside source, the ISI actually ran a special desk assigned to handle Bin Laden. It was operated independently, led by an officer who made his own decisions and did not report to a superior. He handled only one person: Bin Laden,” the daily reported.