US-Pakistan tensions ratchet up

Player utilities

This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

[opening theme music]

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman and this is the World. The coproduction of the BBC World Service, PRI, and WPBH Boston. Accusations have been flying between the US and Pakistan for years, but the traffic has been especially heavy between the two allies in the fight against terrorism since last week's American operation that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. The Al Quaeda chief had been living in the city of Abbottabad for up to six years. And so some Americans suspect that Pakinstan's intelligence service was in cahoots with Al Quaeda. Today Pakistan's Prime Minister fired back, Yousaf Raza Gillani addressed his parliament in Islama bud.

Yousaf Raza Gillani[recording] : It is disengenious for anyone to blame Pakinstan or state institution of Pakinstan including the ISI and the Armed Forces for being in cahoots with Al Quaeda.

Werman: Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani. And the BBC's Shoaib Hassan has been following the story. Shoaib, Prime Minister Gillonee had listed fifteen keypoints, summarizing the government's view on the issue. What were some of the reasons he gave why Pakistan is not to blame for Intelligence failures?

Shoaib Hassan: Well, he made a number of arguments. He said that Pakistan had been a frontline state in the war against terrorism. It had suffered the most. Thirty-thousand people have died. Five thousand Pakistani soldiers. Pakistan's economy has been destroyed. And he went on about the sacrifices that Pakistan has made more than any other country in the war against terrorism.

Werman: He seems to have taken a defensive stance against the criticism that his goverment didn't do enough to help find bin Laden. How are Pakistanis reacting to the Prime Minister's kind of position?

Hassan: Well, I think his speech was directly aimed at an international audience. He spoke in English. A lot of Pakistanis don't understand English or they are not very fluent with the language. So the message was for the outside world rather than for Pakistan.

Werman: And now the White House is calling on Islamabad to help counter growing mistrust by granting US investigators access to three of bin Laden's widows who are in Pakistani custody right now and could have vital information regarding Al Quaeda. Is there any movement on that issue?

Hassan: Well, I have spoken to senior military officials in Islamabad and Bindi. I don't think Pakistan is going to be handing over the widows any time soon. They said that they're still carrying out interrogations with all of the family members that were taken into custody, and it's premature to say what will happen to them whether they will be extradicted or handed over to any other country, and that includes the United States.

Werman: And would they be open to US investigators even being in the room to ask their own questions?

Hassan: Maybe with the passage of time. You have to understand that right now there's a great deal of mistrust between Pakistan and the United States. Prime Minister Gallani I think brought that up especially with his mention of how the United States unilaterally took action against Osama bin Laden. That's something that Pakistan's leadership has expressed, how they were not taken into confidence despite the fact that as President Obama himself said that some of the Intelligence was provided by Pakistani agencies.

Werman: Finally, Shoheb, one of your BBC colleagues, Aleem MaqBool spoken today with some residents of Islamabad. And I'd like us to hear one of the people Aleem spoke with about the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Interviewed Speaker: Look, from the video tapes that they released, it doesn't seem that he was killed here. This area is five minutes from the Pakistan Military Academy. So I don't think he was killed here or was here at all.

Werman: Shoaib, how widespread is this view that bin Laden was not killed in Islamabad or was killed at all?

Hassan: Well, I think people are coming to terms with the fact that he is now dead. But DSL, let's just say a majority of Pakistanis believed he wasn't killed in Islamabad, that it's a drama orchestrated by the United States, that he was in fact killed somewhere else and brought here. Funnily enough, that's not something that the militant leadership themselves say. They're quite sure that he was in the vicinity of where he died. But there is a great deal of Anti-American sentiment. People are not happy with the United States in Pakistan. They blame the US for most of Pakinstan's problem, not just security wise but also economically. So yes, people are not going to believe any sort of evidence that the United States produces, less than bringing Osama's body and displaying it on public television.

Werman: The BBC's Shoaib Hassan in Islamabad.