New Delhi, Oct 13 : When the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meets in Paris to review Pakistans case on fight against terror, it must take cognisance of a recent question posed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi – “Whether it is 9/11 or 26/11, in which country are the conspirators found?”
Though the Prime Minister, during his ‘Howdy Modi’ event in Houston last month where US President Donald Trump was also present, did not name Pakistan but his hint was very clear as he said this “particular country” is feeling troubled since India ended special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
Modi’s reference about presence of conspirators of 9/11 and 26/11 was to slain Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and Jamaat-ud-Dawa head Hafiz Saeed, respectively.
While Laden was the chief architect of the terror attacks in the US on September 11, 2001, Saeed is the mastermind of the attacks in Mumbai on November 26, 2008.
Though Laden was hunted by the US and killed in a stealth operation on May 1,2011 in Abbottabad in Pakistan, Saeed continues to roam freely in Pakistan, despite the US announcing a reward of USD 10 million on his head.
These two cases highlight how Pakistan is a sanctuary for terrorists of all hues, enjoying the patronage of the official agencies, overtly and covertly.
Significantly, Laden, before being tracked down and killed by the American special forces, lived with his family in a three-storey house with a big lawn in Abbottabad at a location which is just about 1.5 kms from the Pakistan Military Academy and about 120 kms from Pakistan’s capital Islamabad.
Even eight years after his killing, the question lingers — how did the world’s most wanted terrorist reach Abbottabad, so deep inside Pakistan, and live there without detection, probably for 6 years?
It is believed that he lived there with the complicity of Pakistani intelligence agencies and the military establishment. According to some reports, the house was built in 2005 and Laden lived there for six years before he was killed.
While Laden lived undisturbed in Abbottabad, the Americans were searching for him in the mountains of Afghanistan and carrying out unsuccessful air raids at suspected places there. And the Pakistani military was pretending to be helping out the Americans in the hunt.
Rumours were also spread, off and on, that he had either died due to some unknown illness or was killed in some US air raids.
Perhaps, the US suspected Pakistani establishment’s complicity and that is why they were kept in the dark about the ‘Operation Geronimo’ to hunt down the most wanted terrorist.
The CIA, while keeping the Pakistanis in the dark, finally tracked him down to this house and American special forces carried out a daring midnight operation.
Under the special orders of US President Barack Obama, commandos of the US Navy SEALs dived into the compound in three helicopters and in a 40-minute operation killed Laden, along with some others there, took away his body and dumped it in a sea.
The helicopters came from a US base in Afghanistan and the operation was monitored live by Obama from White House.
Pakistan, which claimed to have no knowledge about his presence, raised a hue and cry over it being kept in the dark and violation of its “sovereignty” by the American forces.
The US intelligence tracked Laden down to the house through a courier, who used to visit the house from time to time. Since Laden never used the modern tools of communication, like phones, to avoid detection, he used to communicate with his cadres through intermediaries.
The CIA started tracking the courier from August 2010 and his visits to the house in Abbottabad led them to suspect Laden’s presence there.
The US intelligence agency used satellites to get a better idea about Laden’s presence but there was no conclusive evidence as the Al Qaeda chief would never come out of the building.
They then roped in a local doctor Shakil Afridi to visit the house for confirmation. He, along with some nurses, did so, pretending to be undertaking a vaccination programme. Besides, confirming Laden’s presence physically, they collected blood samples for DNA matching with the terrorist’s sister.
Once the presence was confirmed, Obama on April 29, 2011 authorised the raid at the compound, without informing the Pakistani establishment.
An agitated Pakistan lodged a protest with the US for “violating” its “sovereignty” by entering its territory without authorization and arrested the doctor who helped the CIA in tracking down of Laden.
Does it indicate that Pakistan did not want Laden to be hunted?