London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Sheikh Abdul Ghaffar Aziz, Director of Foreign Affairs and Media Spokesman for the Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan’s largest opposition party, said that the killing of Osama Bin Laden, leader of al-Qaeda, last week in the city of Abbottabad located in the northwest of the country, will not eliminate terrorism. Rather “it will breed more fundamentalists, inflame the emotions of extremists everywhere, and prompt more young people to join armed organizations. The US bravado will prompt young people in the end to resort to the extremists, and this is not what we want, because it will have dire consequences, and today we see the impact of this in the tribal belt”.
Aziz, who speaks Arabic fluently, spoke to Asharq al-Awsat via a telephone interview from the city of Lahore, where the headquarters of the Jamaat-e-Islami are located. He said that the leaders of Pakistan’s political opposition, including religious parties, non-religious parties and even the secularists, have demanded that the Pakistani President and Prime Minister resign in the wake of the American operation on Bin Laden’s compound.
He said “all Pakistani citizens feel heartache and anger that the national sovereignty of our country has been violated. Aziz explained “we are very concerned, because we are not safe within the borders of our own country”. He stressed that all activists and political currents were demanding that President Asif Ali Zardari accept responsibility for failing to protect national sovereignty.
Abdul Ghaffar Aziz, the Number Two in the Jamaat-e-Islami, went on to say that: “today we are prisoners of information coming from the American side”, pointing out that this is conflicting, and changes every day. “At first they told us that Bin Laden was armed, then unarmed, and when his daughter and three wives spoke to Pakistani authorities, there was another conflicting report”. He added “we are in fact demanding a full investigation into the incident, and punishment for all those individuals, including the high military command and intelligence agencies, who were not able to detect an American intervention on our territory, which lasted a number of hours”.
He explained “today we are hostage to information provided firstly by the U.S. intelligence, then Pakistani intelligence, then Afghan intelligence, regarding what happened in Abbottabad”. The Director of Foreign Affairs for the Jamaat-e-Islami, which has a membership of 4.8 million, said: “most of the Pakistani government’s foreign policies are subject to the U.S. signal, and demonstrators are demanding that the government retract its support for what the U.S. calls its ‘war on terror'”.
President Barack Obama had announced the killing of Osama Bin Laden in an operation carried out in Abbottabad, near the Pakistani capital Islamabad, on Sunday. The area includes the Pakistan Military Academy, and many retirees from the security forces also live there. The Pakistani government is facing questions about how the U.S. was able to plan and implement such a military operation without coordinating with Pakistani authorities. With regards to Bin Laden’s children, Aziz said “they must be brought to trial or brought before the media, because we want to know the whole truth”. He pointed out that “the leaks coming from the investigations do nothing to cure the hostile atmosphere”. He said “we want the truth about the killing of Bin Laden on our territory, because there are many chapters in this novel which are still vague and inconsistent”.
Aziz stated that his country today is experiencing a critical situation very similar to that faced by Pakistan after the September 11th attacks in 2001. He said: “everyone blames Pakistan for Bin Laden’s presence within its territory, not only the Americans, but also India and the Afghan President Hamid Karzai”. He went on to say: “You have to wonder out loud today: what does Pakistan have to show for its war against terrorism? You could say that 32 thousand civilians and 3 thousand military personnel have been killed in the midst of this war, whether from attacks by drone aircraft or when confronting the Taliban. But if the U.S. President says that justice was done with his killing of Bin Laden, then we would tell him to leave our land immediately, for there has already been enough American disregard for our national sovereignty”.
Aziz added that the Pakistani Army Chief of Staff, Ashfaq Kayani, issued an important statement when he said that he personally did not accept attacks from unmanned aircraft on his country’s territory. However, “this time when the aircraft came, they were not detected by army radars when they attacked Abbottabad, and violated the sovereignty of our national territory”. He pointed out that on the day Bin Laden was killed, the presidential palace in Pakistan was busy hosting leaders of Pervez Musharraf’s party and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).
The Jamaat-e-Islami party organized dozens of rallies across Pakistan to condemn the U.S. military action, after Friday prayers. Party leaders did not show support for Bin Laden, but some followers carried pictures of the al-Qaeda leader and shouted slogans hailing him. The marches contributed to fueling an anti-American sentiment that is already growing in the country. The powerful military in Pakistan is also feeling the heat of the situation, with the increasing popular protests. Some reports revealed that the Head of Military Intelligence, General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, may resign from office, although the Department of Army Public Relations denied such claims.
[As well as Osama Bin Laden] other al-Qaeda leaders have chosen to hide in cities [in the past].In 2002, Abu Zubaydah, an aide to Bin Laden, was arrested in Faisalabad. In the same year Ramzi bin al-Shibh, one of the masterminds behind the September 11th attacks, was also arrested in Karachi, whilst his companion Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was arrested in Rawalpindi in 2003, where the headquarters of the Pakistani army are stationed. In 2005, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, al-Qaeda’s Number Three, was arrested in Mardan, whilst Mustafa Setmariam Nasar was seized in Quetta. The latter holds dual Syrian and Spanish nationalities, and is believed to be the founder of the al-Qaeda cell in Spain.
These arrests took place through, or in cooperation with, the Pakistani intelligence service, whilst the attack on Osama Bin Laden was an exclusively American operation. However, U.S. officials say that the fact that Bin Laden was living in Abbottabad raises serious questions about the possibility of his collusion with Pakistani intelligence. Pakistan denies such allegations and says that Bin Laden’s residence in the city centre was the best possible hide-out. Experts believe that army and drone attacks on tribal areas have made cities like Lahore, Karachi, and Faisalabad attractive places to hide.
Aziz said: “The President of Pakistan, who should have addressed the Islamic nation after the Abbottabad incident, is currently on a foreign trip, whilst the Prime Minister, who should have stood with the Islamic nation after the incident, has just returned from abroad”.
President Zardari is leaving the country on an official visit to Russia, whilst Prime Minister Gilani was in France last week when the killing of Bin Laden was revealed.