News / Asia

Pakistan Denies Arresting Army Major for US Ties

A resident walks past the compound where U.S. Navy SEAL commandos killed Osama in Abbottabad, Pakistan, May 5, 2011
A resident walks past the compound where U.S. Navy SEAL commandos killed Osama in Abbottabad, Pakistan, May 5, 2011

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A report in Wednesday's New York Times quotes unnamed U.S. intelligence officials as saying Pakistan has arrested five people, including a Pakistani military official, accused of passing information to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency prior to last month's U.S. raid in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden.

The Times report exposes the growing friction between the U.S. and Pakistan in the wake of that operation.

The New York Times article cites unnamed sources in the American intelligence community who claim that the five detainees include a Pakistani army major who copied the license plate numbers of cars visiting Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad in the weeks leading up to the May 2 U.S. raid.

Pakistani military spokesman Brigadier General Syed Azmat Ali emphasized that no Pakistani military personnel have been detained in relation to the Abbottabad raid.

"We categorically deny that any such or any army officer was arrested in connection with this," said Azmat Ali.

The military spokesman did confirm that there have been arrests in the wake of the May 2 raid, but he would not clarify what the charges were or whether those being held were being prosecuted, as the New York Times reports, because they assisted the CIA.

"Yes, there have been arrests after the incident has happened," added Azmat Ali.  "I can't give the details of the arrests because anyone involved with that locality or that compound, they were arrested and they're the arrests we are talking about. And they are under investigation and some of them might be cleared."

According to The New York Times, CIA Director Leon Panetta raised the issue of the detained Pakistani informants when he visited Islamabad last week.

The Abbottabad raid, along with other recent incidents, has increased pressure on the Pakistani military both internationally and domestically. The accusations against Pakistan's military range from complicity in extremist activity to outright incompetence, despite its massive budget.

The onslaught of criticism of the military is virtually unprecedented here, and has plunged the country into a seemingly endless state of crisis.

For retired General Talat Masood, the military, the intelligence services and the government are responding to the situation poorly. He says they should be proactive rather than simply trying to save face, particularly in responding to the fact that Bin Laden was able to hide out in Pakistan.

"We have to see whether the Pakistan intelligence services are trying to find out as to how he was living here, what were the sources of his support," said Masood.  "But the government, the military leadership and the intelligence leadership seem to be more concerned about their image. They should not be, because the best way to preserve your image is by trying to confront the weaknesses rather than trying to cover them up."

There have also been calls for action from U.S. authorities who, according to the Times article, are frustrated that the Pakistanis seem more concerned with damage control in the wake of the Bin Laden raid than with actually pursuing the leads that the raid produced.

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