Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said Wednesday that Islamabad needs to do a better job of explaining to the U.S. why Osama bin Laden was found in the country, adding that he remains convinced that Pakistani authorities were unaware of his presence.
“I would only like to say that with all my honest conviction, this is a case of terrible negligence, which ought to be investigated and punished, but it is not a case of complicity,” Mr. Musharraf said at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.
Saying he is “not fully convinced” by reports that bin Laden was in Abbottabad for five years, two during his tenure, Mr. Musharraf said if that were true, it would only strengthen his conviction that negligence, not complicity, was at play.
“Why [do] I say there was no complicity?” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, I am 500 percent sure that I did not know, whether anyone believes it or not, so therefore I am clear that there was no complicity.
“And I’m also clear that the army and [Inter-Services Intelligence] could not have hidden this from me because I’m from them and they’re from me. And if, at all, there was some misdoing at the top level, I’m sure the second-, third-, fourth-tier officers - who were very much in touch with me, as we’ve always been - would’ve come and told me.”
Mr. Musharraf said the “onus of proving this to the United States” is on the Pakistani government. “It’s a very difficult thing to prove because nobody believes,” he said. “But we still have to prove it, because I know it to be true.”
Relations between the U.S. and Pakistan have deteriorated since the U.S. raid in May that killed the al Qaeda leader in a military town near the capital, Islamabad.
The raid sparked Pakistani complaints about violations of the country’s sovereignty and questions in the U.S. about how the al Qaeda leader could have remained in Pakistan without an extensive support system encompassing elements of Pakistan’s intelligence agency.
Mr. Musharraf said Pakistan needs to explain why it has rebuffed repeated U.S. requests to take action against the Haqqani Network, the Pakistan-based insurgent group that the U.S. has implicated in last month’s attack on its embassy in Kabul.
He also lamented last month’s statement by Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs, that called the network a “veritable arm” of the ISI.
“When a person of Adm. Mullen’s stature says that [the] Haqqani group is an extension of the ISI, it means that the ISI - and therefore the army - is against the United States, is abetting … the Haqqani group, is with Taliban,” he said. “That means Pakistan is an enemy, Pakistan is not a friend, is not a coalition member.”
Mr. Musharraf, a former army chief of staff who took power in a 1999 coup and resigned in 2007, announced his return to politics earlier this year, with an eye to the 2013 elections.