Pressure mounts on Pak

Osama hunt: US demands probe into lapses

Both the adviser Thomas E  Donilon and Obama, in separate taped interviews, were careful not to accuse the top leadership of Pakistan of knowledge of bin Laden’s whereabouts in Abbottabad, a military town 35 miles from the country’s capital.

They argued that the US still regards Pakistan, a fragile nuclear-weapons state, as an essential partner in the American-led war on Islamic terrorism.

Trove of data

But in repeatedly describing the trove of data a Navy Seal  team seized after killing bin Laden as large enough to fill a small college library, Donilon seemed to be warning the Pakistanis that the United States might soon have documentary evidence that could illuminate who, inside or outside their government, might have helped harbor bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda who had been the world’s most-wanted terrorist.

The US government is demanding to know whether, and to what extent, Pakistani government, intelligence or military officials were complicit in hiding Bin Laden. His widows could be critical to that line of inquiry, because they might have information about the comings and goings of people who were aiding him.

“We have asked for access, including three wives who they now have in custody from the compound, as well as additional materials that they took from the compound,” Donilon said on the CNN programme “State of the Union,”

The request had echoes of previous struggles with Islamabad, starting with the days right after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Then, the US insisted that Pakistan clearly choose sides and join the US in fighting al-Qaeda, and Pakistan formally broke ties with the Taliban government, which was still in power in Afghanistan. But ever since, Washington has frequently lost out in its efforts to seek information about the loyalties and actions of top Pakistani officials.

Eight years ago, for example, the Bush administration demanded interviews with Abdul Qadeer Khan, the chief of Pakistan’s main nuclear weapons laboratory, as the US sought to understand who in the Pakistani military or intelligence apparatus had helped sell nuclear weapons technology and designs to Libya, North Korea and Iran. Pakistan has refused, perhaps because Khan, while seeking freedom from house arrest, briefly threatened to tell all.

As one US official said after Donilon spoke Sunday: “Our guess is that the wives knew just who was keeping bin Laden alive for all these years.” He added later: “It’s the Khan case, all over again.”

He insisted on anonymity as the US tries to ease Pakistan’s anger over Obama’s decision to conduct the raid without telling Pakistani officials in advance, or seeking their involvement.

The Pakistani government has said nothing about allowing interviews of the wives, who were among the handful of survivors of the raid. One wife was shot in the leg by commandos as she tried to protect bin Laden moments before he was killed.

Pakistan has said it will conduct its own investigation, but US officials doubt it will be credible.

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