The Zhob getaway

Pakistani authorities helped bin Laden escape

In response to the chorus of protests from Pakistani officials over the airstrike in Bajaur targeting al-Zawahiri, the US government is letting out more information on Pakistan’s performance as a FATWAT.

A CIA lead that the al-Qaeda leader was hiding in a remote province was squandered because the Pakistani government delayed giving permission for the attack on its soil, according to a senior Western diplomat.

By the time US officials got the go-ahead, bin Laden had left the suspected hideout in Zhob, in the Baluchistan province of south-west Pakistan.

Speaking of the Zhob attack, the diplomat, who asked not to be named, said: “For unknown reasons, Pakistani officials delayed in giving permission…which ultimately gave these militants time to move to an unknown location.”

The reason for the delay is not clear. While Pakistan’s President, Pervez Musharraf, has vowed to eliminate terrorists operating within his country, elements within Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service may have sought to protect bin Laden. [Sunday Telegraph (UK)]

But the ultimate subterfuge continues: the finger is pointed not at Musharraf himself, but against ‘elements within Pakistan’s ISI’. For all practical purposes, this distinction in meaningless. If, at the height of his power, Musharraf is unable or unwilling to act against terrorist leaders, then his utility as a FATWAT is limited. Straight talk is indeed needed.

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