ISLAMABAD – Pakistan’s prime minister said Monday that Osama bin Laden’s death in an American raid was “indeed justice done” and insisted the relationship with the U.S. was still strong. But he warned Washington that future unilateral strikes could be met with “full force.”
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani also expressed confidence in Pakistan’s military and Inter-Services Intelligence agency, which have been heavily criticized for failing to confront the U.S. Navy SEALs who conducted last week’s helicopter raid without notifying Pakistan first.
The operation took place May 2 in Abbottabad, an army town only two and a half hour’s drive outside the capital. The location of bin Laden’s hide-out has sparked suspicion that Pakistani officials knew where the al-Qaida leader was hiding and may have been helping him.
Gilani adamantly rejected those allegations, saying, “It is disingenuous for anyone to blame Pakistan or state institutions of Pakistan, including the ISI and the armed forces, for being in cahoots with al-Qaida.”
“Allegations of complicity or incompetence are absurd. Pakistan is not the birthplace of al-Qaida,” said Gilani in a speech to parliament. “We did not invite Osama bin Laden to Pakistan or even to Afghanistan.”
Gilani agreed that the failure to find bin Laden, who was reportedly living in Abbottabad for up to six years, was a mistake. But he insisted it wasn’t Pakistan’s alone.
“Yes, there has been an intelligence failure,” said Gilani. “It is not only ours but of all the intelligence agencies of the world.”
He said that the army will conduct an inquiry into the raid and military officials will brief parliament later in May.
The Pakistani military scrambled F-16 fighters and sent forces to bin Laden’s compound as soon as they were aware of the raid, said Gilani. Even though they were unable to interdict U.S. forces before they were on their way back to Afghanistan, he expressed confidence in their performance.
“Our response demonstrates that our armed forces reacted, as was expected of them,” said Gilani.
He warned the U.S. against launching future such attacks, saying “unilateralism runs the inherent risk of serious consequences.”
“Pakistan reserves the right to retaliate with full force,” said Gilani. “No one should underestimate the resolve and capability of our nation and armed forces to defend our sacred homeland.”
But he insisted that relations with the U.S. remain strong and the two countries have worked well together during this period of crisis.
“Our communications at the official and diplomatic levels with the U.S., during this phase, have been good, productive and straight forward,” said Gilani.
He also praised the result of the raid.
“Osama bin Laden was the most wanted terrorist and enemy number one of the civilized world,” said Gilani. “Elimination of Osama bin Laden, who launched waves after waves of terrorists attacks against innocent Pakistanis, is indeed justice done.”