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Pakistan didnít know about Osama persence in Pakistan: Former US ambassador

16 April, 2015

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LOS ANGELES: Former US ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter said on Tuesday that “Pakistan probably didn’t know about Osama bin Laden as there is no evidence to suggest there was a link”.

Giving a talk at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs on re-envisioning US-Pak relations, the former ambassador presented a prologue to the year 2011 which he says was “a terrible year if you happen to be an ambassador to Pakistan”.

In a clear and candid manner, Mr Munter touched upon the past and said, “We had very high expectations and [through] a system set up by late Richard Holbrooke wanted to put an end to the negativity of the past [between the two countries]. But the imbalance of US-Pak relationship, a relationship of perfidy and exploitation depending on which side you are looking at it from, manifested itself through the series of events that took place.”

The subsequent raid on the Abbottabad compound of OBL in May, came six weeks after Raymond Davis, a contractor who worked for the CIA, was bailed out by the ambassador after he shot dead “two thugs who tried to rob him” by paying blood money to the family.

“These incidents came at a time when the trust we were trying to build, the whole Richard Holbrooke project about maintaining trust and not falling back to the old ways, was buckling a bit.”

During the course of his talk, he didn’t mention the drone programme saying instead that the attack in the tribal areas a day after Davis’s release from Pakistan, “was bad timing”.

Just as the diplomats on both sides were figuring out how to work on the “badly damaged relationship”, the Abbottabad raid came about. Mr Munter said Pakistan probably didn’t know about OBL’s presence. “Because everything was taken out during the raid and if there was a link it is hard to imagine there would have been no trace of that.”

The raid and its implications made cooperation between the two countries difficult, the former ambassador said. He believes the relations between the two countries are getting better.

He said the policy of looking at Pakistan through the lens of Afghanistan is a problem. Continuing, he said the nature of US-Pak relationship is more linked to counter-terrorism than creating regional associations, philanthropic or economic links, as a result.

“American popularity in Pakistan is about five per cent. Lowest in the world. Yet in the same Pew poll, more than 90 per cent of the people want to see better relationship with the United States.”

There were many cultural affinities that we could play on, he said, “but unfortunately the focus that most Pakistanis see from us is of a counter-terrorist. The idea of the allegiance of uncaring people who are only concerned with counter- terrorism.”

He said he was not suggesting that counter-terrorism should be overlooked, “but we can still look towards people-to-people contact and find cultural affinities”.

“What do Karachi and Los Angeles have in common? Seashore, culture, gang warfare. We are made for each other. They got twenty million people, we got South Central. This is the link to have.”

In the same vein, Mr Munter said that “Pakistan works because of its people” and counted Balochistan, Karachi and the tribal areas as the “three problem zones, in terms of setting state writ, for Pakistan”.

“What’s interesting about diplomacy at present is that there are many bilateral, trilateral, quadrilateral discussions going on between India-Pakistan-China, Afghanistan-China-Pakistan, all trying to find a common ground.

“Pakistan does tend to be myopic but it can use its potential to have better relations with India, to continue the relations it has with China and to work with Iran and Afghanistan. That might have a whole lot more impact than worrying about issues of civic identity.”

When he was asked to give a proper prescription for Afghanistan in the immediate future, he said Afghanistan must establish multi-pronged diplomacy with its neighbours. “Ashraf Ghani has skilfully balanced Pakistan and India. One of my nightmares is to see India and Pakistan fighting through proxies in Afghanistan rather than on their borders.

“Thankfully the possibility of that is less, thanks to Ghani’s diplomacy.”

According to him, much of Afghanistan’s future depends on the relations between India and Pakistan, and between India and China.

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