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Sympathy For Al-Qaida In Pakistani Intelligence?

GUY RAZ, host:

So how much did Pakistan know? And was it a result of incompetence, as former President Pervez Musharraf argues. Or was it complicity?

I asked Imtiaz Gul, a leading Pakistani journalist based in Islamabad.

Mr. IMTIAZ GUL (Journalist): Complicity, I would say, probably took place at the lower ranks of the ISI and the military. There are a lot of people within the security establishment, even within the civil and bureaucracy who empathize with the cause of Osama bin Laden, basically driven by a narrative that has the issue of Palestine, the issue of Iraq, American invasion of Iraq, or Afghanistan, the core. Probably, this is the motive or motivation number one that would have prompted many security officials to look the other way or at least also provide protection to Osama bin Laden.

RAZ: Sympathy with his cause or his stated cause could have motivated individual actors. But could you conceive of an official policy of shielding Osama bin Laden?

Mr. GUL: I can't really conceive that anybody on top of the ISI or senior generals at the general headquarter would have wanted to hover or protect Osama bin Laden, because, look, what has happened in the end? I mean, this is shear embarrassment to everybody.

I would say you have an institution, which officially is cooperating - largely cooperating with the United States, but on the other hand, you have people within this apparatus who, on the face of it, are cooperating with the government, but in their hearts, they are with Osama bin Laden or the likes of him.

RAZ: How do you remove those elements from the intelligence and military services?

Mr. GUL: I think once their intentions become clear, once their actions betray their real agenda, the only recourse that the government or the military can take is to put them on trial and remove them from active service. I think that would serve as a detriment to others who are, in their hearts, supportive and sympathetic towards the cause of Osama bin Laden.

RAZ: Do you believe that the Pakistani government will carry out a serious investigation to find out who knew what about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden?

Mr. GUL: Well, I think this entire episode has kicked up a new storm in this country, and this is some sort of something unprecedented. Never before had there been so high demand of resignations by the president, the prime minister, as well as the army chief.

On Monday, the parliament is beginning an entire session on this very issue. And we understand that there would be a lot of criticism both of the army, as well as of the government. And I think there will be consequences. There will be serious investigation. And the government, as well as the military, shall have to set the house in order.

RAZ: Yesterday on the program, we spoke with Wendy Chamberlin, the former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan. She said the thing Americans do not understand about Pakistan is that Pakistanis believe that they are under siege, that they are being encircled by an alliance of countries that are working against them. Is that the case?

Mr. GUL: This perception that there is a growing Indo-Afghan-American alliance against Pakistan basically is rooted in the fears that since Pakistan has nuclear weapons, these countries might be wanting to take out those nuclear weapons, and basically (unintelligible) the Pakistani defenses.

So while the military establishment might have some sort of legitimate concerns as far as the growing Indo-American-Afghan cooperation is concerned, however, this establishment may not necessarily be really catering to the real problems that Pakistan currently faces. I think the threat is not necessarily coming from the eastern and western border. The threat comes from within, and that threat is, I think, this growing extremism inspired by al-Qaida, inspired by people like Osama bin Laden.

RAZ: That's Imtiaz Gul. He's a Pakistani journalist based in Islamabad and the author of the book "The Most Dangerous Place."

Imtiaz Gul, thank you so much.

Mr. GUL: Welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.