- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 23, 2011

A prominent Indian opposition leader said Thursday that senior Pakistani leaders must have known of Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts before the U.S. Navy SEAL operation last month that killed the al Qaeda leader in a military town outside Islamabad.

Arun Jaitley, who leads the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India’s upper house of parliament, told The Washington Times that the terrorist mastermind’s extended stay in Abottabod — the Pakistani equivalent of West Point — suggested that he had not only a local support system but also the blessing of national leaders.

“The fact that he’s in a garrison town in Pakistan so close to the capital itself obviously can’t be without the knowledge and acquiescence of some relevant people in the establishment,” Mr. Jaitley said.

The BJP leader declined to name particular officials and said he was not aware “whether some knew or all knew.” But he mocked “the whole defense that is not complicity, it is incompetence.”

“I don’t buy it,” he said of Pakistan’s insistence that its senior leaders were not aware of bin Laden’s presence in their country before the SEALs’ May 2 raid.

While statements like Mr. Jaitley’s have been legion in Congress, Obama administration officials have been more cautious, stressing the need for Pakistan to conduct a credible investigation.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates last month said he had seen “no evidence at all that the senior leadership knew” of bin Laden’s whereabouts and “some evidence to the contrary.”

Pakistan last week detained more than 30 people, including five CIA informants, for questioning as part of its bin Laden probe. Islamabad has denied that bin Laden received state support but has acknowledged that rogue elements within its intelligence service could have helped him.

India has long accused its western neighbor of aiding and abetting Islamic extremists, particularly those that have targeted India itself, like the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

Mr. Jaitley repeated the Indian government’s allegation that LeT’s 2008 attacks in Mumbai, which killed 166, received the direct support of the Pakistan’s intelligence service.

“The distinction between the state and the non-state players is getting gradually obliterated,” he said.

Mr. Jaitley said that he had cautioned wariness on Pakistan in his meetings with U.S. policymakers and opinion leaders.

“They seem to be suggesting that the only course open to them is engagement,” he said. “I’ve been suggesting to them that if they’ve chosen the course of engagement, they should at least be realizing that engagement can bring results only if Pakistan decides on what future course it is to adopt.”

“I don’t think anybody is sure of the direction Pakistan is going to take,” he added. “People are watching the situation with their fingers crossed.”

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