Islamabad, Asharq Al-Awsat- Pakistani intelligence officials fluent in Arabic have interrogated Osama Bin Laden’s widows and some of his children concerning the night US Special Forces killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in the city of Abbottabad.
The Pakistani team questioned Bin Laden’s family at an undisclosed location near the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, after three members of the Al-Qaeda leader’s family were given medical treatment in a military hospital in Rawalpindi.
A senior official in the Pakistani government told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We treated the members of the family in the best medical facilities”. Amal Ahmed Abdulfatah, Osama Bin Laden’s widow that holds a Yemeni nationality, was among the injured that were treated in the military hospital. Abdulfatah and her 10-year-old daughter Safiyah Bin Laden, who witnessed her father’s killing at the hands of US forces, divulged extremely valuable information about visitors to the now infamous compound. Pakistani officials are trying to uncover who provided Bin Laden and his family support for five years in Abbottabad. The Pakistani officials also interrogated two of Bin Laden’s sons or grandchildren (about 10 years of age).
Pakistani officials have told Asharq Al-Awsat that Central Intelligence Service officials fluent in Arabic have held two rounds of interviews with Bin Laden’s family, including his three wives and his 12-year-old daughter. The interviews were held in an undisclosed location for security reasons and were attended by officials from the Pakistani military intelligence service. This was the first official contact between the two Pakistani Agencies since the deterioration of relations in the wake of the Abbottabad operation. The Central Intelligence Agency was permitted to attend the interrogation of Bin Laden’s family at the official request of the United States to the Pakistani government. The chances are growing that Pakistan will be the permanent residence of the Bin Laden family. Pakistani officials are saying that all the efforts exerted to return the members of the family to their original countries have so far failed. It seems that the Pakistani government is facing a major predicament because it does not know exactly what it should do with Bin Laden’s family that includes his three wives and nine children, including sons, daughters, and grandchildren. It also seems that the Pakistani government’s predicament has developed into a major legal quandary after the Yemeni government refused to receive Bin Laden’s widow although she holds a Yemeni passport. Meanwhile, legal experts and human rights activists are raising the pressure on the Pakistani government to specify the legal status of the family members. Ahmer Bilal Soofi, a prominent expert in international law, has said: “The family cannot remain in prison for an unspecified time. The Pakistani government should decide its fate immediately”.
It is worth noting that the Pakistani government is holding Bin Laden’s three wives as well as 13 children that were in the residential compound where Bin Laden was living in the city of Abbottabad. The Pakistani government has initiated negotiations with the Yemeni government to return Bin Laden’s wife that holds the Yemeni nationality and her five children. But the Yemeni government has not shown any interest to accept the family members as ordinary Yemeni citizens. The identities of Bin Laden’s two other wives are still unclear because they do not have any documents or passports although it is reported that they are Saudi nationals. According to Pakistani Law of 1946, Pakistani law enforcement authorities have the right to arrest any foreigner that enters Pakistani soil illegally. However law experts are saying that in accordance with this law, the Pakistani government cannot continue to hold Bin Laden’s family in prison for an unspecified period. Ali Dayan Hasan, the director of Human Rights Watch in Pakistan, says that the government should inform the media and human rights organizations of the exact legal status of the family that includes women and children. Pakistani human rights organizations are asking the government to announce whether it has any legal reservations on the members of the family and in accordance to which law are they being interrogated under. A human rights activist told Asharq Al-Awsat: “If a legal case is not brought against them and if they are not referred to court, this imprisonment would be illegal”. The Pakistani government has not received any request from any country to receive the family members. Officials rule out the possibility that the family that is still in Pakistan may be released. It is also unlikely for the government to release the family and allow it to settle in Pakistan. Pakistani officials are worried if the family members are released they may fall in the hands of the radical fundamentalist groups. This would be an extremely difficult situation for the government. The Pakistani government gives priority to handing over the members of the family to their original countries.