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Former Pakistan Army Chief Reveals Intelligence Bureau Harbored Bin Laden in Abbottabad

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 9 Issue: 47
December 22, 2011 04:19 PM Age: 3 yrs
Category: Terrorism Monitor, Global Terrorism Analysis, Home Page, South Asia

Pervez Musharraf

In spite of denials by the Pakistani military, evidence is emerging that elements within the Pakistani military harbored Osama bin Laden with the knowledge of former army chief General Pervez Musharraf and possibly current Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. Former Pakistani Army Chief General Ziauddin Butt (a.k.a. General Ziauddin Khawaja) revealed at a conference on Pakistani-U.S. relations in October 2011 that according to his knowledge the then former Director-General of Intelligence Bureau of Pakistan (2004 – 2008), Brigadier Ijaz Shah (Retd.), had kept Osama bin Laden in an Intelligence Bureau safe house in Abbottabad. In the same address, he revealed that the ISI had helped the CIA to track him down and kill on May 1. The revelation remained unreported for some time because some intelligence officers had asked journalists to refrain from publishing General Butt’s remarks. [1] No mention of the charges appeared until right-wing columnist Altaf Hassan Qureshi referred to them in an Urdu-language article that appeared on December 8. [2]

In a subsequent and revealing Urdu-language interview with TV channel Dawn News, General Butt repeated the allegation on December 11, saying he fully believed that “[Brigadier] Ijaz Shah had kept this man [Bin Laden in the Abbottabad compound] with the full knowledge of General Pervez Musharraf…  Ijaz Shah was an all-powerful official in the government of General Musharraf.” [3] Asked whether General Kayani knew of this, he first said yes, but later reconsidered: “[Kayani] may have known – I do not know – he might not have known.” [4] The general’s remarks appeared to confirm investigations by this author in May 2011 that showed that the Abbottabad compound where bin Laden was captured and killed was being used by a Pakistani intelligence agency (see Terrorism Monitor, May 5). However, General Butt failed to explain why Bin Laden was not discovered even after Brigadier Shah and General Musharraf had left the government.

General Butt was the first head of the Strategic Plans Division of the Pakistan army and the Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) under Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1990 to 1993, and again from 1997 to 1999. Sharif promoted General Ziauddin Butt to COAS after forcibly retiring General Pervez Musharraf on October 12, 1999, but the army’s top brass revolted against the decision and arrested both Prime Minister Sharif and General Butt while installing Musharraf as the nation’s new chief executive, a post he kept as a chief U.S. ally until resigning in 2008 in the face of an impending impeachment procedure.

Brigadier Shah has been known or is alleged to have been involved in several high profile cases of terrorism. The Brigadier was heading the ISI bureau in Lahore when General Musharraf overthrew Prime Minister Sharif in October 1999. Later, General Musharraf appointed Shah as Home Secretary in Punjab. As an ISI officer he was also the handler for Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was involved in the kidnapping of Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002. [5] Omar Saeed Sheikh surrendered to Brigadier Shah who hid him for several weeks before turning him over to authorities. In February 2004, Musharraf appointed Shah as the new Director of the Intelligence Bureau, a post he kept until March 2008 (Daily Times [Lahore] February 26, 2004; Dawn [Karachi] March 18, 2008). The late Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto accused Brigadier Shah, among others, of hatching a conspiracy to assassinate her (The Friday Times [Lahore], February 18-24).                                                                                                                           

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistani top military brass had serious differences on several issues. One of the most serious of these concerned Pakistan’s relations with Osama bin Laden. However, the disastrous1999 Kargil conflict in Kashmir overshadowed all of these. General Butt says that Prime Minister Sharif had decided to cooperate with the United States and track down Bin Laden in 1999. [6] According to a senior adviser to the Prime Minister, the general staff ousted Sharif to scuttle the “get-Osama” plan, among other reasons: “The evidence is that the military regime abandoned that plan.” [7] General Butt corroborates this. In his latest interview, he says that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had constituted a special task force of 90 American-trained commandos to track down Bin Laden in Afghanistan. If the Sharif government had continued on this course, this force would likely have caught Bin Laden by December 2001, but the plan was aborted by Ziauddin Butt’s successor as ISI general director, Lieutenant General Mahmud Ahmed. [8]

Arif Jamal is an independent security and terrorism expert and author of “Shadow War – The Untold Story of Jihad in Kashmir.”

Notes:

1. Author’s telephone interview with an Islamabad journalist who requested anonymity, November 16, 2011.

2. Altaf Hassan Qureshi, “Resetting Pak-U.S. relations” (in Urdu), Jang [Rawalpindi], December 8, 2011.  Available at http://e.jang.com.pk/pic.asp?npic=12-08-2011/Pindi/images/06_08.gif

3. See “Government – Army - America on Dawn News – 11the Dec 2011 part 2,”   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4bYHC2_ito&feature=youtu.be

4. Ibid

5. Author’s interview with a security officer who requested anonymity, Islamabad, May 2000.

6. “Government – Army - America on Dawn News –December 11, 2011, part 1,”                 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4WLtaxxPPw.

7. Author’s interview with a former government minister who requested anonymity, Rawalpindi, February 2006.

8. “Government – Army - America on Dawn News –December 11, 2011, part 1,”                 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4WLtaxxPPw.