Sunday, Aug 24, 2003
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By Hasan Suroor
The Guardian, in a front-page "special investigation", said that despite their public commitment to hunt down the Al-Qaeda leader, the Pakistani authorities had a "private" strategy to go slow. Quoting a U.S.-based Pakistani financier, Mansoor Ijaz, who is said to have close contacts with Pakistan's intelligence agencies, the newspaper said: "Mr. Ijaz believes an agreement was reached between Gen. Musharraf and the American authorities shortly after bin Laden's flight from Tora Bora. The Pakistanis feared that to capture or kill bin-Laden so soon after a deeply unpopular war in Afghanistan would incite civil unrest in Pakistan and would trigger a spate of revenge al-Qaeda attacks on Western targets across the world."
Mr. Ijaz was directly quoted as saying that "there was a judgment made that it would be more destabilising in the longer term" to capture bin-Laden while passions over the war in Afghanistan were still running high. The argument was that in any case "there would still be the ability to get him at a later date when it was more appropriate".
According to him, Americans agreed because of their "shift in focus" to Iraq, and so in the following months the efforts centred on dismantling the al-Qaeda infrastructure rather than capturing bin Laden.
The strategy, the report claimed, allowed Gen. Musharraf to put out "conflicting" accounts of bin Laden's status stating once that he believed the man was dead while the U.S. administration "barely mentioned his name". Seeking to establish the credibility of its source, it described Mr. Ijaz as someone who "knows al-Qaeda better than most... has close contacts in Pakistan's intelligence agencies and has worked, behind the scenes, as negotiator over bin Laden in the past".
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