ISLAMABAD – Pakistan's prime minister said Thursday the United States “martyred” the al-Qaida leader and mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden, a term that reflected a subtle jab at Washington as it's mainly used for honorable figures slain in battle.
Imran Khan delivered the jab in a rambling budget speech in parliament, attacking his predecessors' foreign policies and saying that Pakistan’s partnership with the United States in the war on terror was a mistake.
Khan also said Washington used abusive language against Pakistan, blaming Islamabad for its failures in neighboring Afghanistan. Most of all, the U.S. refused to tell Islamabad of its operation against bin Laden in 2011 before carrying out the Navy SEALs nighttime raid. The special operations force swooped into Pakistan’s military garrison town of Abbottabad in the middle of the night on May 2, 2011, killing bin Laden and several of his operatives.
“We sided with the U.S. in the War on Terror but they came here and killed him, martyred him and ... used abusive language against us (and) did not inform us (of the raid), despite the fact that we lost 70,000 people in the war on terror,” Khan told Parliament.
Washington has repeatedly accused Pakistan of harboring the Afghan Taliban and giving safe haven to the feared Haqqani network, a Taliban affiliate that has been blamed for some major attacks in Afghanistan over the years and declared a terrorist group by the United States. U.S. Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had claimed the Haqqani network was run by Pakistan's premier intelligence agency, known by its acronym ISI.
Pakistan denied the accusations, saying Washington was blaming Pakistan for the failure of the U.S.-led coalition's 150,000 soldiers to defeat the Taliban, who are now at their strongest since being toppled in 2001 and rule or hold sway in about 50% of Afghanistan.
“The way we supported America in the war on terror, and the insults we had to face in return. ... They blamed us for every failure in Afghanistan. They openly held us responsible because they did not succeed in Afghanistan,” Khan said.
Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were the only countries to recognize the Taliban government, which had harbored bin Laden as he planned terrorists attacks against the U.S. After the 9/11 attacks, Pakistan turned and became an ally of the United States against the Taliban, who were ousted by a U.S.-led coalition in November 2011.
However, opposition lawmaker Khwaja Mohammed Asif slammed Khan for calling bin Laden a martyr, saying the al-Qaida chief had brought terrorism to Pakistan.
“He (bin Laden) ruined my country but he (Khan) is calling him a martyr,” said Asif.
Since taking over, Khan claimed his government has reset the Pakistan-U.S. relationship, elevating it to one of mutual respect, for which he also credited the personal rapport he has built with President Donald Trump.
”“No one insults us now,” said Khan.
Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.