After Bin Laden Raid, Pakistan Faces Criticism

Pakistan is under intense criticism for either granting Osama bin Laden safe harbor or not knowing he was in the country — duplicity or incompetence.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And as we just heard from Andrea, Pakistan is facing a lot of tough scrutiny. Its government has been in damage control mode since bin Laden's death.

The al-Qaida chief lived in relative comfort in a compound that somehow went unnoticed in Abbottabad, a town where the Pakistani military is pervasive.

From Islamabad, NPR's Julie McCarthy reports on Pakistan's attempts to fight the impression that it was either incompetent or complicit in hiding bin Laden.

JULIE MCCARTHY: The Americans risked going it alone in the bold capture and killing of bin Laden because they thought the Pakistanis would alert the man the United States had hunted for a decade. That is the blunt assessment from CIA chief Leon Panetta.

But Pakistan's foreign secretary, Salman Bashir, told the BBC that Pakistan did not have to prove its credentials.

Mr. SALMAN BASHIR (Foreign Secretary, Pakistan): Mr. Panetta, of course, is entitled to his views, but I know for sure that we have extended every cooperation to the U.S., including the CIA.

MCCARTHY: The foreign ministry put out the word that Pakistan had been sharing intelligence with the U.S. on Osama bin Laden's compound since 2009. Foreign Secretary Bashir repeated that assertion as he countered CIA chief Panetta's suspicions that Pakistan plays a double game when it comes to militants.

Mr. BASHIR: This particular location was pointed out by our intelligence quite some time ago to the U.S. intelligence.

MCCARTHY: Still, Retired Brigadier Javed Husain says the military and the country's spy agency, the ISI, are the sources of national disgrace. He says if they didn't know that bin Laden was living under their noses, it's a scandal. If they did, it's worse.

Mr. JAVED HUSAIN (Retired Brigadier, Pakistani Army): So, it reflects very poorly. It's very, very embarrassing for the Pakistan army and for the ISI.

MCCARTHY: Husain suspects it was not incompetence that allowed bin Laden to live for years within walking distance of the country's premier military academy. He says more likely the intelligence establishment knew but felt constrained.

Mr. HUSAIN: If Pakistan had done Osama bin Laden in and captured him and handed over to the Americans, then all the al-Qaida terror groups would have converged on Pakistan.

MCCARTHY: Retired Major General Rashid Qureshi, former spokesman for the army, notes that al-Qaida has declared war on the ISI and the Pakistan army, killing hundreds of agents and even more soldiers. He says the idea of harboring Osama bin Laden is inconceivable.

Mr. RASHID QURESHI (Retired Major General, Pakistani Army): I cannot believe - and I've been in this army for 36 years - I cannot believe that there would be anyone who would say, okay, let's keep quiet, let's save this guy.

MCCARTHY: Pakistan registered its, quote, "deep concern and reservations" about the Americans' unilateral raid on Pakistani soil, saying it shall not serve as future precedent for any state. It was a nuanced message for the international community, particularly its archrival, India, whose air force chief said New Delhi also has the capability to carry out such surgical strikes against terrorists, but he didn't elaborate.

Retired General Rashid Qureshi says the Americans have sent a very bad signal.

Mr. QURESHI: Let me say that the actions that the U.S. has taken would encourage any military establishment which is against Pakistan to consider such an action and think that they might be able to do it.

McCARTHY: As Pakistan faces questions about its claim that it was ignorant of bin Laden's presence here, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani tried to shift the focus. Visiting France today, he said the intelligence failure was not Pakistan's alone, it belongs to the whole world.

Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Islamabad.

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