By Iram Zahra
BEIJING—(October 21, 2010—M4relay)– Pakistan has rejected US media reports that Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri are hiding in its northwestern region near the Afghan border.
“Stories like this keep on surfacing. Our reaction from day one to such stories is clear – he is not here,” deputy information minister of Pakistan, Samsam Bokhari told reporters.
“They always say Osama is here but do not tell us exactly where he is located. We do not believe in these kinds of stories,” he said, reacting to a story run by CNN on Monday.
CNN quoted an anonymous senior NATO official as saying bin Laden and al-Zawahiri were hiding close to each other but in different houses in the tribal region along Afghan border.
The unnamed official said Al Qaeda leaders were not living in “caves” but in relative comfort, protected by locals and some members of the Pakistani secret services.
The official did not discuss how the coalition obtained this information but said that he has access to the most sensitive information in the NATO alliance.
United States officials have repeatedly claimed that Al Qaeda’s chief and other senior Al Qaeda members could be hiding in Pakistan’s remote border lands but Pakistani officials have always denied it. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton also said some Pakistani officials knew the Al Qaeda leaders are living in northwestern tribal areas of Pakistan.
NATO officials should however share credible and precise information about Bin Laden and his deputy if NATO is certain of their whereabouts. This will enable Pakistan to take necessary action in assisting in the Bin Laden hunt.
Despite Pakistan’s denial it is widely believed that Al Qaeda leaders have been hiding in sanctuaries in the mountainous border regions. Bin Laden is said to have been moving in the region from Chitral in the northwest on Chinese border. The report further said Bin Laden has been moving in the region from Chitral in the northwest on Chinese border to Kurrum, near the Tora Bora Mountains in neighboring Afghanistan, where Al Qaeda fighters were hiding during the NATO attacks in 2001.
The tribal areas in Pashtun country (i.e. parts of Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan) have a very tight network of people who wouldn’t necessarily betray anyone trying to hide, even for a huge price. The ‘shelter a stranger’ mentality is extremely strong; it’s an ancient code of honor.
Back in 2001 Bin Laden was supposedly dead. Such information was propagated by western mainstream media – apparently to down play the failures recorded by the American administration to arrest him – even after putting huge monetary prize to anyone who will provide information that will lead to the tracking of the alleged planner of the 9/11 attacks in the U.S.
Osama Bin Laden is today believed to be one of the best brains behind several suicidal bombings and terrorist attacks in the world.