Is Osama hiding in Pakistan?

US TV news channel CNN has repeated its allegation that Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden is living comfortably in a house in northwest Pakistan close to his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri. Quoting a NATO official, CNN claimed that the Saudi-born militant wanted for the September 11 attacks on the United States nine years ago is being protected by local people and “some members of the Pakistani intelligence services.” The television network extended its “disclosure” that the al-Qaeda number two, the Egyptian-born Zawahiri, was living close to him. The unnamed NATO official from Kabul was quoted by CNN that the al-Qaeda chief and his deputy are not residing in a cave but are freely moving around an area ranging from the mountains of Chitral near the Chinese border to the Kurram valley near Afghanistan’s Tora Bora. At various instances, western intelligence agencies, have conjectured that Pakistan’s tribal belt of Kurram and six other districts spanning 27,220 square kilometres are bin Laden’s hiding place. According to CNN, the same NATO official also confirmed the US assessment that Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, has moved between the cities of Quetta and Karachi in Pakistan over the last several months.

” Interior Minister Rehman Malik has denied the presence of top leadership of Al-Qaeda in Pakistan, stating that he categorically denies the presence of Osama bin Laden, his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri and even Mullah Omar in any part of Pakistan. He said the government had already assured its full cooperation to share information with the world community in this regard. Pakistan’s foreign ministry has rightly refuted the speculation to be “baseless and “put out to malign Pakistan”. Osama bin Laden, who has a 25-million-dollar US bounty on his head and most probably perished in 2002 due to kidney failure, is in all probability, being kept alive by US agencies to continue pressure on Pakistan and justify their war against terror. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, predicted this month that bin Laden and Zawahiri would eventually be hunted down.

Pakistan has bent backwards to support the war to terror and sacrificed tremendously. Pakistan’s envoy to Washington, Hussain Haqqani, talking to a US TV channel has declared that the US has managed to apprehend Taliban/Al-Qaeda personnel due to Pakistan’s support. On the other hand, US special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrook’s statement that Taliban who renounced al Qaeda would be welcomed back in Afghan politics is essentially a brainchild of Pakistan, deserves mention and appreciation. Credit must be given where it is due. The Daily Mail opines that speculative and tentative statements regarding the presence of Osama or Mullah Omar in Pakistan will only hinder the war against terror. If the US has credible intelligence information regarding the location of either, it must share the same with Pakistan so that action can be taken. Attempting to pressurize Pakistan so that its armed forces can launch operations against the miscreants in North Waziristan would prove counterproductive.

Pakistan Army needs a breathing space to consolidate its gains from the successful operations in Swat/South Waziristan before opening a new front in North Waziristan. The worst-ever floods-2010 has not washed away the war on terror as the nation, the government, and the army is wholly committed in relief & rehabilitation work in the flood affected areas. Until the Armed Forces conclude their commitment to the flood relief operations, they cannot be deployed elsewhere. It must be understood by the US that its own frustrating slow response in opening up of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) in tribal areas that will open up trading and employment opportunities is delaying a response, which could go a long way in making the situation conducive to winning hearts and minds of people. The war against terror is a concerted affair, in which the fog of war must not be allowed to cloud judgment through speculative conjectures and rumourmongering – Dailymailnews