Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Pakistan official warns of ‘terrible catastrophe’ after U.S. breach of sovereignty

Tensions over the U.S.

Tensions over the U.S. incursion into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden rose on Thursday with a senior Pakistani official bristling at the “violation of sovereignty” and warning of “a terrible catastrophe” if such violations continued.

At a press conference in Islamabad, Salman Bashir, Pakistan’s foreign secretary, claimed that “this matter of sovereignty and violation of sovereignty raises certain legal and moral questions that fall in the domain of the United Nations,” news agency Reuters reported.

While he did not name the U.S. directly, he warned against future violations by any other nation, adding that “we feel that that sort of misadventure or miscalculation would result in a terrible catastrophe.”

Four days after U.S. special forces killed bin Laden in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad, Bashir echoed Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in insisting their country was not to blame for the intelligence failures that allowed bin Laden to stay hidden for so many years.

Article continues after advertisement

On Wednesday, Gilani said in Paris that the failure to find bin Laden was “an intelligence failure of the whole world, not just Pakistan alone.”

Pakistan shared intelligence “with the rest of the world, including the United States,” he said. Therefore, if there were lapses, “that means lapses from the whole world.”

While officially an ally in the West’s war against Islamic terrorism, Pakistan is now facing tough questions as to how bin Laden was able to evade capture for so long just 35 miles from the country’s capital, Islamabad. There have been persistent doubts that the country’s intelligence service, the ISI, in particular was devoted to the task of finding bin Laden.

Bashir in his news conference angrily denied suggestions the ISI was in league with Islamic extremists.

“It’s easy to say that elements within the government were in cahoots with the Al Qaeda. This is a false charge,” Bashir said, according to India’s IANS news agency.

“It cannot be validated. It flies in the face of what ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) has been able to accomplish in the war on terror,” he said. Bashir added that Pakistan was proud of the ISI’s work.

“It is an important arm of the government, which has contributed enormously to the anti-terror campaign.”

Pakistan’s most influential Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, urged its followers to hold mass rallies on Friday to demand their government withdraw its support of the U.S. war on terror, Reuters reported.

“Even if there was any sympathy for the Americans, that would dissipate after the way they crushed and violated our sovereignty and our independence,” party leader Syed Munawar Hasan told the news agency on Thursday.

Article continues after advertisement

As the dust continued to settle on the stunning anouncement by U.S. President Barack Obama that the world’s most wanted man was dead, a Pakistani defense analyst Perwez Hoodbhoy, told Britain’s BBC that a lot of Pakistanis “want to believe that Bin Laden is alive” and that many ordinary people were condemning the killing.

On Wednesday, Obama revealed in a taped interview with CBS for 60 Minutes — to be broadcast over the weekend — that he would not release a photo of bin Laden’s corpse, even if it meant silencing skeptics who say the US claims are a fabrication.

“I think that, given the graphic nature of these photos, it would create some national security risk,” Obama said.

The Al Qaeda leader’s body was buried at sea, the U.S. has said.

“It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence, as a propaganda tool,” Obama said. “That’s not who we are.”

Questions are also being raised about the nature of the raid by Navy SEALs after officials admitted bin Laden was not armed when he was killed.

Reuters cited two Pakistani officials who claimed their investigation of the incident indicated that none of the occupants of the house had returned fire.

“The people inside the house were unarmed. There was no resistance,” one of the officials said.

“It was cold-blooded,” said the second official when asked if there was any exchange of fire during the operation.

Article continues after advertisement

They declined to say, however, how they had arrived at that information.

There has also been signs of a backlash in Western countries. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has come under fire for her supposedly jubilant response to the news of bin Laden’s death. And on Thursday, England’s respected Archbishop of Canterbury, who married Prince William and Kate Middleton just last week, said he had a “very uncomfortable feeling” about the killing of an unarmed man, whoever he was.

In other latest news, an anonymous U.S. official told daily USA Today that material found on five computers and about 100 storage devices such as flash drives and hard drives was one of the “most significant in the history of the war on terror.”

He said early analysis had provided some information about possible future threats.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, in testimony Wednesday before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, said there was no “specific or credible” intelligence worthy of a national terror alert.