Washington: Former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf has denied having knowledge about the presence of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden within earshot of the nation`s premier military academy for two years while he led the country.
Bin Laden, who had evaded capture for a decade, was killed on May 02 in a top-secret operation involving a small team of US Special Forces in Abbottabad, located 50 kilometres northeast of Islamabad and 150 kilometres east of Peshawar.
When asked at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington whether he knew about the then al Qaeda chief’s presence in Abbottabad, Musharraf said: “Yeah, I mean, Osama bin Laden was in Abbottabad. Yes, he was there for five years. First of all, I’m – I am not fully convinced that he was there for five years, frankly, unless there is some proof given… But if he was there for five years, two years were in my tenure.”
He insisted that it was not a case of complicity, but that of terrible negligence that ought to be investigated and punished.
“Now why I say there was no complicity: As far as I’m concerned, I am 500 percent sure that I did not know, whether anyone believes it or not,” Musharraf said.
“So, therefore, I am clear that there was no complicity, and I am also clear that the Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) could not have hidden this from me because I am from them and they are from me,” he added.
The former military ruler said that if at all, there was some ‘misdoing’ at the top level, the second-, third-, fourth-tier officers, who were in very much in touch with him, who have always been, “would have come and told me that this is not possible, that ISI and army could do anything – of what my policy was not – they – whether they were not following the policy. So there was no complicity, and I didn’t know, frankly.”