Posts Tagged ‘ ISI ’

Pakistani Actress Veena Malik Sues FHM Magazine Over Nude Cover Photo

A nude shot of a sultry Pakistani starlet on the cover of an Indian lad mag has sparked an uproar between the two nuclear rivals.

Pakistani actress Veena Malik appears on the cover of FHM India’s December issue wearing nothing but a steamy gaze and the initials of Pakistan’s fearsome intelligence agency, ISI, tattooed across her arm.

Conservative Muslim clerics in her home country slammed the shot as an insult to Islam, while Pakistan’s government has promised to investigate whether the image was doctored, London’s The Telegraph reported.

Malik, meanwhile, has filed a lawsuit against the magazine, saying that she agreed to pose topless — along with a cheeky dig at her home country’s spy service — but the editors digitally altered the shot to make her appear totally nude.

“I agreed to a photo shoot and having an ISI tattoo in a humorous way but I did not have any nude photos. My pictures have been morphed,” she told a Pakistani television station.

The suit is seeking $2 million in damages. FHM India editor Kabeer Sharma insists the cover is legit.

“Maybe she is facing some kind of backlash, so maybe that’s why she is denying it,” Sharma told Agence France-Presse.

“We have not photoshopped or faked the cover. This is what she looks like, she has an amazing body.” Sharma says a video from the cover shoot would prove the photos are real.

An alternate cover that has surfaced online shows Malik clad in a dinky military cargo belt while nibbling on the pin of a grenade.

The 33-year-old Muslim actress and model was best known as a Pakistani TV star before hitting it big in India in 2010 as a contestant on the fourth season of the reality show “Bigg Boss,” a version of “Big Brother.”

In January, she got in a much-publicized verbal spat with a conservative Muslim cleric, who called her an insult to Pakistan and Islam for cozying up with a dashing Indian actor on the show.

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Fate of Pakistan’s Zardari May Hinge on Scandal of Purported Memo

By Alex Rodriguez for The Los Angeles Times

Did he, or didn’t he?

All over Pakistan, people are asking whether Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari approved a memo asking for Washington’s help in reining in the country’s powerful military.

The answer could play a role in whether Zardari, already deeply unpopular with both the public and the military, stays in power.

The scandal scorching the airwaves in Pakistani cities and towns now has a name — Memogate — and it is sparking talk of early elections. At the center of it all is Pakistani American businessman Mansoor Ijaz, who says a senior Pakistani diplomat asked him to convey a letter to Washington seeking its help in preventing a military takeover of Zardari’s administration.

In return, the letter stated, the Zardari government would eliminate a wing of the Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency, or ISI, that maintains links with Afghan insurgent groups, and would give U.S. troops “a green light” to root out Afghan militants hiding out in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Ijaz says Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, asked him to be the intermediary and that Zardari had endorsed the memo. The explosive allegations prompted Haqqani to offer his resignation as a way of defusing the controversy, though he denies either writing the memo or asking Ijaz to pass it on to Washington.

Unless Haqqani can show that the memo was fabricated, he could be ousted from his post. But analysts say the crisis also casts a shadow on Zardari, who has been criticized by many Pakistanis for his closeness to the American government, which they mistrust, as well as his failure to solve the country’s myriad economic and infrastructure ills.

“It might be a game-changer in the political arena, with the military concluding there’s no way it can trust the Zardari government,” said Pakistani columnist and legal expert Babar Sattar. “If the military isn’t willing to let this go, it could reduce the term of this government. That might be the only resolution: to hold early elections.”

If genuine, the memo sheds a harsh light on the deep rifts between Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders. Although Zardari is president, the military, led by army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, holds ultimate power in Pakistan, as it has for most of the country’s 64-year history. The military thinks Zardari is too acquiescent to Washington’s demands.

The memo purportedly was drafted a week after U.S. commandos killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden during a secret nighttime raid on his compound in the Pakistani military city of Abbottabad, about a two-hour drive from the capital. It portrays a civilian government convinced that the country’s military leaders were planning a coup against Zardari.

The rationale, Ijaz said in an Oct. 10 op-ed piece in the Financial Times newspaper, was that the military was being heavily criticized by the public and the media for allowing the raid to occur, and needed to make Zardari a scapegoat to deflect blame.

“Request your direct intervention in conveying a strong, urgent and direct message to Gen. Kayani that delivers Washington’s demand for him and [ISI chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja] Pasha to end their brinkmanship aimed at bringing down the civilian apparatus,” stated the memo, which was delivered to the then-chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael G. Mullen. The memo was published on the website of Foreign Policy magazine and by the Pakistani newspaper the News.

“If true, it shows that the civilian government really panicked,” said security analyst Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani general. “It’s extraordinary that they would get so nervous that they would write all this. It shows the deep divide between the civilian leadership and the military.

“If it’s a phony memo, it would recoil back at the [military].”

If the military was behind such a move, it could be aimed at discrediting or weakening Zardari’s government.

“The more likely, but far from certain, scenario? The boys are up to their tricks again,” Cyril Almeida, a columnist for Dawn, an English-language Pakistani newspaper, wrote Friday, referring to the military.

To back up his claims, Ijaz gave the News email that he says he and Haqqani exchanged at the time the memo was drafted and later conveyed to Mullen. On May 10, after the memo was delivered to Mullen, Ijaz allegedly emailed Haqqani, saying, “Ball is in play now — make sure you have protected your flanks.”

Pakistan Leaders Must Make Choice After Clinton’s Warning

By The Bloomberg News Editorial Board

When U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Pakistan last week, she noted that U.S.- Pakistani relations were at a turning point after the killing of Osama bin Laden. It was up to the Pakistanis, she said, to decide “what kind of country they wish to live in.”

The brutalized body of investigative journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, which turned up outside of Islamabad on May 31, may provide a clue to the answer.
Shahzad disappeared after publishing the first of two promised articles linking elements of the Pakistan navy to al- Qaeda following a deadly May 22 attack on a Karachi naval station. Last fall, after being questioned about a different story by Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Shahzad wrote that he was threatened by the spy agency.

Alternatively, it could be that foul play like Shahzad’s murder will become a thing of the past in Pakistan. While in Islamabad May 27, Clinton and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen demanded authorities take “decisive steps” to crush the violent extremists the government has long supported, which would end the need to intimidate journalists who expose that support. Whichever way the Pakistan government goes, the May warnings by the U.S. ought to be the last.

The U.S. administration has continued to insist, as President Barack Obama did in a May 22 interview with the BBC, that the Pakistanis have “generally been significant and serious partners against the terrorist threat to the West.” This simply isn’t the case.

Victim, Sponsor

For much of the past decade, Pakistan has been both a victim and a sponsor of Islamic militants. Its soldiers are fighting bravely against homegrown terrorists seeking to install an Islamic government. In 20 attacks in May, these radicals killed some 150 people.

At the same time, the Pakistani army, led by General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, is a longstanding patron of violent groups targeting Afghanistan and India.
Guided by excessive fear bordering on paranoia about India, Pakistan’s military and intelligence services believe that nurturing those extremists is an effective way to frustrate India’s regional ambitions. The ISI largely created and continues to support the Taliban and the Haqqani Network, the principal groups battling U.S. forces in Afghanistan and the fledgling government in Kabul. It also backs Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group responsible for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai that killed more than 160 people.

Double-Dealing

President George W. Bush’s administration tried to end this double-dealing by giving Pakistan billions in economic and military assistance. Yet Bush didn’t make the aid contingent on a crackdown on extremists. The Pakistanis cooperated somewhat with U.S. efforts to dismantle al-Qaeda but refused to act against other groups, including the Afghan Taliban, which was given refuge inside Pakistan’s borders.

The Obama administration accelerated the failed Bush policy, substantially increasing military and economic assistance, again without imposing rigorous conditions. And Pakistan continued to ignore administration warnings about continued support for extremists.
In one incident reported by the Washington Post, Obama’s first national security adviser, James Jones, warned officials in Islamabad that there would be “consequences” if a terrorist attack directed at the U.S. was traced to Pakistan. Yet when a man who had trained at a terrorist camp in that country attempted to detonate a car bomb in Times Square in May 2010, the U.S. administration did nothing. Shortly thereafter, Obama watered down Jones’s words, telling Kayani that a “successful” attack would have consequences.

Meaning Business

So when U.S. authorities learned that Osama bin Laden might be housed in a villa in a Pakistani garrison town, they dispatched Navy Seals to capture or kill him without so much as notifying the Pakistanis in advance. The raid provoked great outrage from officials in Pakistan. Since then, emotions have cooled. Clinton and Mullen have delivered their warnings, public and private. And this time, the Americans may mean business.

Will the Pakistanis respond?

Shahzad’s murder is a bad sign. On the other hand, reports from Pakistani tribal leaders suggest that the Pakistani army may be preparing a serious campaign in North Waziristan, where the leaders of the Haqqani Network and other extremist groups live.
It will soon be clear whether Clinton’s latest message got through. If not, the administration must consider new ways to persuade Pakistan to change course, recognizing that the country is behaving more like an adversary than a partner.

Chicago Trial To Put heat On Pakistan Spy Agency

As Reported by CBS News

The federal trial of Tahawwur Rana begins Monday in Chicago, in which the Pakistan-born Canadian citizen who has lived in the Midwest for many years stands accused of providing cover for a former classmate who scouted sites for the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks in India. He is also accused of providing support for attempted attacks in Denmark that were never carried out.

Rana has pleaded not guilty, and while the trial may be about Rana’s alleged abetting of international terrorism, the court proceedings are gaining international attention because they are expected to finger Pakistan’s ISI spy agency for helping a terror group carry out the attacks, the Associated Press reports.

Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani militant group, has been blamed for the 3-day siege in Mumbai that killed more than 160 people, including six Americans. David Headley, a Pakistani-American businessman who has confessed to his involvement in the attacks and has turned government informant, is expected to testify that Pakistan ISI agents helped the militant group carry out the Mumbai attacks, The Guardian reports.

The trial comes at a particularly tense time for U.S.-Pakistan relations, because U.S. Navy SEALs recently found and killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan after he had been hiding in plain sight there for several years.

Headley, a former informant for DEA, has already pleaded guilty to aiding in the attacks, and he has also already told an Indian inquiry into the attacksthat ISI officers helped Lashkar-e-Taiba plot the commando-style attacks on several sites in Mumbai, India’s largest city, The Guardian reports.

The 12 jurors selected for the federal trial of Rana are mostly minorities and mainly women, the AP reports.

Eight women and four men were sworn in for the trial, and opening statements are planned for Monday.

The AP writes: “Few biographical details have been available about the jurors or the six alternates chosen, whose identities are being kept secret. More than half of the 12 jurors are black. Questions in open court focused on the jurors’ understanding and views of Islam, citizenship and terrorism, issues that experts predict will come up at trial.”

With Friends Like Pakistan…

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

Many people in Pakistan these days are wondering why their nation often finds itself on the wrong side of recent history. First, there is the continued and unjust imprisonment of a Christian Pakistani woman named Asia Bibi who has been languishing in jail for nearly two years. She has been given a death sentence for allegedly making derogatory remarks about the prophet Muhammad.

Then there was the killing of Salman Taseer, who was the then sitting governor of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, by one of his own bodyguards for his outspoken support for Asia’s rights and her freedom. Instead of swift punishment and public outcry at his actions, the killer, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, was showered with rose petals by some cheering members of the bar association of Lahore when he came to the courthouse for formal charges of murder. Yes, members of the judiciary were cheering his unilateral action of murdering another human being simply for his support towards a condemned non Muslim woman’s rights.

You can only imagine the warped sense of logic and justice in a country where lawyers cheer the cold blooded murder of an innocent man whose only crime was to come at the aid of a condemned Christian mother of two children.

Fast forward to a few months later, the extremists managed to assassinate the only Christian member of President Asif Ali Zardari’s government when the Minister for Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, was killed in a hail of bullets by unknown gunmen who then managed to escape on their motorcycle. Bhatti being a Christian as well as a minister in the government, had campaigned for the release of Asia as well as for the repeal of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan that at help promote a culture of state sanctioned hatred against religious minorities in Pakistan.

The culture of fear and hatred as well as violence against the religious minorities has progressively gotten worse along with the security situation inside the country in the last ten years. If there is anything that has been proven by some of these recent events in Pakistan, it is only that the country has become the undisputed global hotbed of extremism, fanaticism, and Islamic militancy in the Muslim world. It has now morphed into a country where the Wahhabi and Salafi fanatics have successfully used fear and hate to silence the majority moderate Barelvi and Sufi Muslims of Pakistan.

When powerful moderate voices like those of Bhatti and Taseer are silenced despite having heavy protection, how safe can the common man feel about his life if he chooses to speak up against the radicals within Islam? To kill someone is against Islamic belief at its core, unless it is done in self defense but you would be hard pressed to hear that view from the religious fanatics in Pakistan. They have justified killing others over many insane reasons such as making derogatory remarks about Islam or the prophet Muhammad. They also rationalize the killing of someone over a family’s honor, thus honor killings where often young women are killed if they are deemed to have brought dishonor to their family. These radical Islamists will even want someone dead for simply uttering disparaging remarks against Islam or its prophet. It is both ironic and hypocritical to see that the same derogatory remarks towards other figures such as Jesus, Moses, Abraham or other prophets of the Quran do not meet the same outcry nor receive the same impassioned response from the masses as when Islam or its prophet Muhammad are criticized.

The seeds of this current fanaticism fanning the flames of hatred were planted during an earlier conflict, this one involving the Soviets against an under matched adversary in Afghanistan. It was during this time in the ‘80’s when the Pakistani dictator, General Zia ul Haq, was in power and he accepted American aid from the Reagan administration in thwarting the threat from the 1979 Soviet invasion of neighboring Afghanistan. At the time, Pakistan’s ISI worked very closely with these “freedom fighters” waging what many thought was a just jihad against a communist foe who disallowed all religious worship. In fact, a good movie to rent right now to put some of these current events in perspective would be Charlie Wilson’s War starring Tom Hanks which details this era of Pakistan-US relations and cooperation against a common enemy in the Soviets.

The trouble now however is that in this current uneasy alliance between Pakistan and the US, there is not a common enemy, at least not as how it is viewed by many in Pakistan, which recently was polled to be the most anti-American nation in the world. Even though radical Islam and fanaticism is as much a threat to Pakistan’s sovereignty and prosperity as it is to the United States, India has always been seen as the big threat by its army and rulers. Pakistan has long seen Afghanistan as a country offering it strategic depth in any future wars with India. Thus, its interests in Afghanistan do not coincide with those of the United States.

The Pakistani media also constantly feeds a steady news diet of bombings by the Taliban/Haqqani network as well as any one of the other fill-in-the-blank militants groups seemingly operating freely from within its borders. There is also the regular news reports of US drone attacks and NATO actions in the AfPak region, as well as the all ubiquitous and constant threat faced from India, who is still seething from the Mumbai bombings in 2008, which were blamed on Pakistani trained terrorists. To further add insult to their injury, not a single leader of the Lashkar E Taiba has been convicted in Pakistan for the attacks in Mumbai that claimed 174 deaths and seriously injured several hundred others.

To the Indians, the perpetrator of their version of 9/11 is not an Arab from Yemen named Osama, but rather a whole nation state with whom it has fought three wars in 60 years and who is a long time sworn enemy with which it shares a long border. Too often it is rightly assumed by many that Pakistan will not act against Lashkar E Taiba and other openly anti-Indian militant groups because these groups are seen as a strategic asset for use against India. Only the fear of an all out nuclear war between the two nations by a trigger happy Pakistan placated India enough so that New Delhi did not immediately take military action against Pakistan after the Mumbai attacks.

So this culture of fear from all enemies both foreign and domestic to Pakistan’s sovereignty is now at an all time high within the nation. With a several decade long war on its western border in Afghanistan as well as the constant threat from its arch enemy to the east in India, Pakistan has never felt more threatened or squeezed. This pressure is now only going to get ratcheted higher since last week’s killing of Osama Bin Laden at a compound in a suburb of Islamabad, Pakistan. Living for five years undetected in the compound, Bin Laden was less than a mile away from the Kakul Military Academy in Abbottabad, Pakistan’s version of the famed American military college of West Point, when he was killed by a US Navy Seal team.

For the world’s most wanted terrorist to hide in plain sight in such a manner and for so many years, rightly points a lot of suspicion on Pakistan. Long suspected by many intelligence analysts, elements within Pakistan’s spy agency, the ISI, naturally now attracts a lot of suspicion in their possible involvement in the whole affair. There are strong voices and calls within the US Congress to halt all aid to Pakistan in light of Bin Laden’s death. We certainly can assume that any other country in the world found to be harboring terrorists would already have been labeled a state sponsor of terrorism and would be facing immediate sanctions from the international community. “You are either with us or against us” were the words so famously uttered by then President Bush to Pakistan specifically after 9/11. But due to Pakistan’s importance for a successful pullout from Afghanistan of US troops, as well as its strategic position within the Islamic world, neither side can afford to cut off relations with each other.

Although the Obama administration stopped short of claiming that the corrupt civilian government of Zardari was directly involved in protecting and sheltering Bin Laden, all signs point to complicity to some extent by some segments within Pakistan’s hierarchy. There is near unanimous agreement among many in Washington, and this is true on both sides of the aisle, that there are many sympathizers of the Taliban and Al Qaeda within the ranks of the army and the intelligence agencies of Pakistan.

Having driven the Soviets out of the region with the help of militant jihadi groups like the Taliban, no doubt a cadre of army and intelligence officers must have come to espouse the belief that it is in Pakistan’s best interests to have a religiously frenzied force available to use as a weapon against India in a future conflict also. In fact, Pakistan has always had this policy of seeking strategic depth in Afghanistan against India.

The death of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan by Special Forces of the American military illustrates just what a duplicitous game the country has been playing with the United States and more importantly with itself. In the war on terror America lost nearly 3,000 citizens in the attacks on 9/11. In that same period stretching the last ten years, Pakistan has lost nearly 31,000 citizens to terrorist attacks by the Taliban, Al Qaeda and other militant groups. So it has always been in Pakistan’s best interests to fight the militant threat brewing in its borders the last two decades that has claimed so many lives and caused so much instability.

The murders of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti illustrates the dire situation within Pakistani society where many young underprivileged men gravitate towards Osama Bin Laden’s ideology of hate against the US, which is seen by many, as the aggressor in an already very anti-American country. Also western ideas, religious and political liberties, and freedoms, such as those for women in western society, are all seen by the Islamic clergy and religious establishment as being against Islamic doctrine and clashing with the Muslim way of life. Therefore, the madrassahs and the masjids continue to espouse rhetoric against the American and European way of life which is seen as contradicting the teachings of the Quran. Even moderate Muslims and their sites of worship have come under heavy attack by the militants as witnessed by a new strategy of attacking Sufi Muslim shrines and mosques. Pakistan may not want to admit it, but there is a raging war going on within itself for the control of Islam and the attack on moderate Islam by the extremists within the religion.

The Bin Laden killing makes Pakistan seem either highly incompetent about knowledge his whereabouts or at the very least appear to be deeply complicit in sheltering and keeping him hidden while the United States launched the biggest manhunt in US history. At this point, the United States justly feels betrayed and distrustful towards anyone in the Pakistani establishment. After all, how are they to know who now to trust in the army or the civilian government?

It is imperative that Pakistan mount an immediate and urgent investigation that has the full cooperation and assistance of the US so that both countries can discover the source of this support system that Bin Laden has had from within Pakistan. Certainly, some heads do need to roll in Islamabad over this. Whether those resignations be of the current ISI chief, Ahmad Shuja Pasha, head of the army, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, or Zardari and Gilani themselves, as some accountability needs to occur. This is important not just for the sake of American-Pakistani relations, but just as importantly for the benefit of the Pakistani populace who is both deeply embarrassed by breach of Pakistan’s sovereignty, but also for the intelligence failure by the government of Pakistan at Osama’s whereabouts. Until and unless Pakistan makes this investigation a top priority, USA and Pakistan relations will continue to slide downhill and will mire further in distrust.

Pakistan must realize that in this global war against religious Islamic fanaticism, it cannot continue to speak from both sides of its mouth. Not when everything, including its very existence is at stake. It cannot at once be both a front line ally in the war against terror and receive billions of dollars in US aid, and at the same time, be found to shelter or allow terrorists and militant organizations safe havens and allow them to operate within its territory.

It is up to Pakistan to salvage a quickly deteriorating situation. However at the time of publication of this article, it seems that President Asif Ali Zardari’s government is off to a horrible start in mending fences with the US. First the name and identity of the CIA station chief in Pakistan was leaked by someone in the ISI to members of the local press. This leak compromised his mission and even poses a danger to his life as the anonymity of all operatives is a necessary requirement in intelligence work.

Then later in the day, in remarks given by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to its Parliament, he defiantly stated that neither Pakistan’s army nor its intelligence agency should be suspected by the Obama administration for providing support to Bin Laden. Gilani also went as far as to say that any future unilateral action by the US or any other nation inside Pakistan’s territory will be met with like force. I thought to myself, did he really just that? Did Pakistan just threaten the United States? It is appalling to see the political posturing now being done by the Pakistani government and the long term negative consequences they will have on the nation.

For a country that is receiving nearly $3.5 billion in US aid yearly, these are very tough words that will undoubtedly only make the strained relations between the two countries worse. Pakistan should realize that United States wants to feel that it can trust it to be a full partner in the fight against militancy and extremism. And unless this distrustful and at times, very adversarial relationship changes, the United States cannot help but feel that with friends like Pakistan, it does not need enemies!

-Manzer Munir, a proud Pakistani American and peace activist, is the founder of Pakistanis for Peace and blogs at http://www.PakistanisforPeace.com as well at other websites as a freelance journalist and writer. 

Raid Sparks Question: Is Pakistan Doing Enough?

As Reported By CNN

The United States wants answers from Pakistan about how Osama Bin Laden could have lived in that country — near a major military base not far from the capital — without the government knowing.

The United States is asking Pakistan for information on who built and owned the compound where bin Laden lived, two senior U.S. officials said Wednesday. The United States also wants to know about security at the compound, in the city of Abbottabad.

Pakistani government officials have insisted that they did not know Bin Laden’s whereabouts. They reacted angrily to news that CIA Director Leon Panetta told U.S. legislators in a closed-door hearing that “either they (the Pakistanis) were involved or incompetent. Neither place is a good place to be.”

“What worse statement can come than that we heard from Panetta?” a senior Pakistani intelligence official said. “I am afraid this statement is totally regrettable. (Panetta) of all people knows how much we have been doing.”

The official, who did not want to be named, said his country had been generously sharing intelligence with their American counterparts.

“We have been sharing everything with them, but they have been selectively sharing with us,” the official said. “They are entirely dependent on what we provided them. Why were details (of the operation to kill bin Laden) not shared with us?”

Pakistan has argued that it has provided valuable intelligence information and worked with the United States to capture or kill numerous al Qaeda members and other Islamic extremists.

Yet the questions around bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan has exacerbated an already rocky relationship between the two nations.

Many Obama administration officials, lawmakers and observers from across the political spectrum want to know how bin Laden — based at a compound in the military garrison city of Abbottabad — could have eluded Pakistani capture, or whether the government or elements of it harbored bin Laden.

They want to know whether Pakistan is firmly backing the fight against terror or is supportive of militants fighting against troops in Afghanistan.

In Islamabad Tuesday, Marc Grossman, the special U.S. representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan, met with Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari, the head of the ISI military intelligence Gen. Ahmed Pasha, and military chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani. During that visit, which was scheduled before the killing of bin Laden, Grossman discussed the operation with the officials, the State Department confirms.

Those officials say the Pakistani officials expressed surprise that bin Laden was living at the compound and the U.S. officials tell CNN they are taking that at face value until more information is available.

The United States has a “complicated but important relationship” with Pakistan, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday.

Carney told reporters that U.S. officials need to learn more about the “support network” that sustained bin Laden in Pakistan. But he also warned against “tarring” everyone in Pakistan’s government because of the revelation that bin Laden had been living so close to Islamabad.

There has also been “a great deal of important cooperation” in the fight against Islamic extremism, he said. “The idea that these kinds of complications exist is not new.”

But Rep. Peter King, the New York Republican who is chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, said “this can’t be allowed to go on.”

In comments Tuesday at a House subcommittee hearing on Pakistan, King noted that bin Laden’s compound was near a headquarters for the Pakistani intelligence services.

“There are two possibilities and one answer,” King said. “One is that it was a direct facilitation by elements of the Pakistani government, or Pakistani intelligence is entirely inept, and that has not proven to be the case over the years.”

According to two sources who were in the closed-door briefing with Panetta Tuesday on Capitol Hill, the CIA director echoed King’s concerns.

Panetta made clear, the sources said, that he and other administration officials are trying to get to the bottom of which it was — involvement or incompetence — on the part of the Pakistanis.

In an interview with TIME magazine, Panetta explained why the Pakistanis were not told of the bin Laden mission “It was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardize the mission,” he said. “They might alert the targets.”

At King’s hearing, Seth Jones of the Rand Corporation told the panel that bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan showed that “at the very least, there has not been a high priority in targeting senior al Qaeda leaders” in the country.

“Based on the threat streams coming from this area, those interests have to change in my view,” Jones said. Another terrorism expert, Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute, said mistrust between the United States and Pakistan runs both ways, with Pakistani officials fearful that the United States will abandon the region after eliminating bin Laden.

“It is essential that we find ways not only to communicate our frustration to Pakistan,” Kagan said, but also to say “we’re not leaving.”

The United States has regarded Pakistan as a top ally in the fight against the Taliban, al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network and other Pakistan-based militants who have launched attacks against international and Afghan troops in Afghanistan. At Tuesday’s hearing, experts also identified Lashkar-e-Taiba as a major emerging threat from Pakistan to the Indian subcontinent and beyond.

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the United States has provided $18 billion in foreign assistance and reimbursements to Pakistan, two-thirds of which are security-related.

The administration and lawmakers have praised the Pakistanis for their anti-terrorism efforts, but at the same time some lawmakers suspect the country hasn’t been robust enough in going after terrorists. Some say elements of Pakistan’s intelligence services — the Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI — have close ties with militants.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, agrees that they have been “good at going after some terrorists” but have “very subtly walked both sides of the street.”

“That’s of concern to many of us, I think, because you have to declare yourself,” she told reporters, noting that the issue of Pakistan will be addressed by her committee.

Denis McDonough, who is President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, told CNN that despite legitimate questions about what Pakistani authorities knew, the United States needed to maintain the relationship.

“We obviously recognize that nobody has sacrificed more in this war against al Qaeda than the Pakistanis,” McDonough said. “Al Qaeda had declared war, in fact, on the Pakistani government, have threatened and continues to threaten to try to get their hands on nuclear material in that country. … So they obviously have a lot at stake in this fight. So we’re going to continue to work with them and continue to try to partner with them against al Qaeda, because we recognize that it’s not only in our interests, but in their interests.”

Asked if the U.S. funding to Pakistan should continue, McDonough said such investments bolster U.S. security.

“We’ll continue to try to work with them to train, to try to target the common threat that we face from al Qaeda,” McDonough said, adding: “Nobody has greater concern about our ability to … carry out the fight against al Qaeda than the president. We’re going to continue to do that, either with our Pakistani friends or alone. But this is too big a fight for us to give it up.”

McDonough also said he agreed with the reported quote by Panetta that the United States decided not to share intelligence with Pakistan in the run-up to the Monday raid that led to bin Laden’s death because of fears of a leak. Sen. Richard Lugar, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also cited concern that some Pakistani officials might alert bin Laden.

“This is one reason we did not inform the Pakistanis of our actions,” Lugar said, while noting “there were probably many who were very uncomfortable about the presence likewise.”

The Pakistani government on Tuesday “categorically” denied reports that its leadership “had any prior knowledge” of the U.S. operation against bin Laden

One ISI official denied any complicity in hiding bin Laden, saying one failure and embarrassment doesn’t negate its “track record” of capturing more al Qaeda members than anyone else.

“Yes, we did fail to locate him. Yes, we are embarrassed. But that does not mean we are incompetent and straddling the fence,” the official said. “Had we known that OBL was there we would have raided it and handed him over to the U.S. to silence the critics talking about the complicity of the ISI.”

The United States is reviewing intelligence seized in the compound to determine whether bin Laden received support inside Pakistan, a senior U.S. official told CNN. This comes amid discussions in Washington over the extent of the Pakistani intelligence service’s knowledge of his whereabouts and whether it provided him sanctuary.

Lugar was asked in Washington why taxpayers should support money for Pakistan.

“It’s a very complex country. A very complex set of officials,” the Indiana senator said. “To try to obtain perfection in terms of who the recipients ought to be is out of the question. It’s a question of if there are goals we can achieve if we have some accountability of the money.”

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told CNN on Tuesday that Pakistan has been an “important partner in counterterrorism cooperation and we’ve had very important cooperation from them.”

But she questions how bin Laden could “hide in plain sight in that kind of compound without the knowledge of high-ranking officials.”

“We have captured many, many al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, so Pakistan has been a cooperating counterterrorism partner,” Rice said, making reference to the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. “But everyone knows that there are elements within Pakistan that are still tied to extremism, that has been a concern, and it is very important now that the Pakistanis take a hard look at how this possibly could have happened,”

Mark Quarterman, director of the Program on Crisis, Conflict, and Cooperation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and an expert on Pakistan, said there have been strong differences between Washington and Islamabad over U.S. drone strikes in the tribal region and calls to remove CIA operatives in the country. The bin Laden operation and the issues surrounding it add to the tension, he said.

“I would not be surprised if there are questions on Capitol Hill about continued level of support to Pakistan, about the U.S. relationship with Pakistan and the consideration of the nature of that relationship and how we handle it going forward,” he said.

The Pakistan government and the ISI supported the Taliban when it controlled Afghanistan during the 1990s, but the government broke ties with the Taliban after the 9/11 attacks. American officials have consistently indicated that there are rogue ISI elements supportive of militants.

One reason Pakistanis also have supported militants in the tribal region is that the fighters are seen as serving as a bulwark for Pakistani interests. That includes a focus against the influence of longtime rival India in Afghanistan, Quarterman said.

“The Pakistanis are hedging their bets,” he said. “They know the United States isn’t there to stay.”

Jamie Metzl, executive vice president of the Asia Society, said the onus will be on Pakistan to do a thorough investigation to assess what happened with bin Laden.

“If Pakistan denies any official involvement with bin Laden, it will be difficult to prevent a backlash among members of the U.S. Congress who will believe that Pakistan is playing a double game,” Metzl said.

Metzl also says Pakistan’s fear is that India will increase influence in Afghanistan and surround Pakistan, and that calculation has led Pakistan to keep militants under its sway.

Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican who is chairman of the House Select Intelligence Committee, said Pakistan and the United States have “a very funny relationship.”

Pakistan dispatched “troops into the tribal areas at our request” and “took thousands and thousands of casualties trying to fight Taliban and al Qaeda elements,” Rogers said on CNN’s “American Morning.”

“There are some concerns about their ISI being penetrated, their intelligence services being penetrated, but at the same time,” he said, “we’ve got to have them.”

 

-CNN’s Joe Sterling, Jill Dougherty, Elise Labott, Zain Verjee, Ted Barrett, Elise Labott, Alan Silverleib, Tom Cohen and Nick Paton Walsh contributed to this report

Pakistan’s president denies harboring bin Laden

By Nahal Toosi and Zarar Khan for The Associated Press

Pakistan’s leader denied suggestions that his country’s security forces sheltered Osama bin Laden as Britain demanded Tuesday that Islamabad answer for how the al-Qaida chief lived undetected for six years in a large house in a garrison town close to the capital.

But in a nod to the complexities of dealing with a nuclear-armed, unstable country that is crucial to success in the war in neighboring Afghanistan, British Prime Minister David Cameron said having “a massive row” with Islamabad over the issue would not be in Britain’s interest.

A day after U.S. commandos killed bin Laden, reporters were allowed within the 15-foot, barbed-wire-topped walls of the compound for the first time. But the doors of the house were sealed shut and police were in no mood to open them.

Local residents showed off small parts of what appeared to be a U.S. helicopter that Washington said malfunctioned and was disabled by the American strike team as they retreated. A small servant’s room outside the perimeter showed signs of violent entry and had been briskly searched, clothes and bedding tossed to the ground. Its wall clock was on the floor, the time stuck at 2:20, when the U.S. team would have been on the ground in the early hours of Monday.

Asif Ali Zardari’s comments, in a Washington Post opinion piece Monday, were Pakistan’s first formal response to suspicions raised by U.S. officials and others. Those suspicions could further sour relations between Islamabad and its Western backers at a key point in the war in Afghanistan.

Bin Laden was killed close to a military academy in the bustling northwestern town of Abbottabad, not in the remote Afghan border region where intelligence assessments had assumed he had been holed up. That was quickly taken as a sign of possible collusion with the country’s powerful security establishment, which Western officials have long regarded with a measure of suspicion despite several notable al-Qaida arrests in the country since 2001.

“Some in the U.S. press have suggested that Pakistan lacked vitality in its pursuit of terrorism, or worse yet that we were disingenuous and actually protected the terrorists we claimed to be pursuing. Such baseless speculation may make exciting cable news, but it doesn’t reflect fact,” Zardari wrote.

Ties between the two nominal allies were already strained amid U.S. accusations that the Pakistanis are supporting militants in Afghanistan and Pakistani anger over American drone attacks and spy activity on its soil. They came to head in late January after a CIA contractor shot and killed two Pakistan’s, in what Washington said was self-defense.

Senior U.S. officials did not directly accuse Pakistan of collusion, but made it clear they had concerns.

“People have been referring to this as hiding in plain sight,” Obama’s counterterrorism chief John Brennan told reporters Monday. “Clearly, this was something that was considered as a possibility. Pakistan is a large country. We are looking right now at how he was able to hold out there for so long and whether or not there was any type of support system within Pakistan that allowed him to stay there.”

Lawmakers were more direct.

U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin said Pakistan’s intelligence and army have “got a lot of explaining to do,” given that bin Laden was holed up in such a large house with surrounding buildings, the fact that its residents took the unusual step of burning their garbage and avoiding any trash collection.

“It’s hard to imagine that the military or police did not have any ideas what was going on inside of that,” Levin said.

Cameron, who has also made supporting Pakistan a major foreign policy commitment, echoed those concerns.

“Those are questions we have to ask, those are questions we will want answered and we will be asking that question of everyone in Pakistan and the Pakistani government,” Cameron told BBC radio before acknowledging the West’s limited leverage against Islamabad.

“We could go down the route of having some massive argument, massive row with Pakistan, but I assess our relationship with Pakistan and it is my very clear view that it is in out interests to work with the government and people of Pakistan to combat terrorism, combat extremism and help development in that country.”

Suspicions were also aired in many Pakistan’s media and on the street Tuesday.

“That house was obviously a suspicious one,” said Jahangir Khan, who was buying a newspaper in Abbottabad. “Either it was a complete failure of our intelligence agencies or they were involved in this affair.”

Pakistan’s security establishment has yet to explain how bin Laden was able to live there undetected, and given that it is rarely transparent about what it does, it might never do so. Asked about the raid, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir said it was time to move on.

“The issue of Osama bin Laden is history and I think we do now want to keep ourselves mired in the past,” he told reporters.

U.S. officials have said that Pakistani officials were not told about the early morning helicopter raid until the strike team had killed bin Laden had returned to Afghanistan from where they took off from, citing security reasons.

Many Pakistanis were surprised at how this was possible, especially when initial reports stated that the choppers took off from a Pakistani air base. Some were angry that the country’s sovereignty had been violated — an especially sensitive issue given the unpopularity of America here.

Zardari said it “was not a joint operation” — the kind of which has been conducted in the past against lesser terror suspects in Pakistan — but that Pakistani cooperation, in a general sense, had helped lead them to bin Laden.

“A decade of cooperation and partnership between the United States and Pakistan led up to the elimination of Osama bin Laden as a continuing threat to the civilized world,” he said.

President Barack Obama also said the country’s anti-terror alliance had helped in the run-up to the operation, but did not thank Pakistan when he announced the death of bin Laden.

The death has raised fears of revenge attacks, both in Pakistan — which has seen hundreds of suicide attacks by al-Qaida and its allies since 2007 — and internationally. The U.S Embassy said its missions in Pakistan would remain closed to the public until further notice.

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