South Asia

Musharraf: ISI 'not complicit' in hiding Bin Laden

Gen Pervez Musharraf says Pakistan's intelligence agency was negligent and inept in failing to find Osama Bin Laden's hide-out in Abbottabad.

Pakistan's former president denied the ISI - at any level - knew the al-Qaeda leader was living in Pakistan.

But he told BBC Newsnight it was "very difficult to prove non-complicity" between the ISI and al-Qaeda elements.

The US believes Bin Laden had been in Abbottabad for five years before he was killed on 2 May in a US Navy Seal raid.

Washington says the world's most wanted man could not have gone undetected for so long in the garrison city - where Gen Musharraf was trained - without some collusion by Pakistani officials.

US officials believe someone in the Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency - which has a long history of contacts with militant groups - must have known where Bin Laden was hiding.

They say the Abbottabad compound was a command and control centre from where Bin Laden had actively led al-Qaeda.

'No complicity'

Gen Musharraf said he had been "surprised and shocked" to discover Bin Laden had been living in the Abbottabad compound just 60 km (40 miles) from Islamabad.

Neither he nor his senior government officials had colluded in hiding the fugitive, said Gen Musharraf, adding that he did not believe Bin Laden could have been living in Abbottabad when he was president between 1999 and 2007.

"I can't imagine in my wildest dreams that the intelligence agency was doing something without telling me, so therefore there was no complicity at the strategic level," he told Newsnight's Jeremy Paxman in an interview.

That being the case, he said the spy agency had demonstrated "negligence, ineptitude and failure" in failing to detect the world's most wanted man.

Pakistan's current Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, has ordered an investigation into the failures to detect the al-Qaeda leader.

'Pakistan the rogue'

In the wide ranging Newsnight interview, Gen Musharraf criticised the US government for favouring its relationship with India over its relationship with Pakistan.

The 67-year-old also accused the US of turning a blind eye to elements of the Indian state which he claimed were sympathetic to terrorism.

"Every time, Pakistan is the rogue," he said in the interview at his London home.

One of Pakistan's longest-serving rulers, Gen Musharraf took power in a coup in 1999 and led the country until resigning under threat of impeachment by Pakistan's coalition government in 2007.

In February, a Pakistani court issued a warrant for his arrest over alleged involvement in the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007.

Gen Musharraf said he planned to return to his homeland at some stage to contest elections, whether presidential or prime ministerial.

He said he was confident he could fight off any charges against him, which he described as "political gimmicks without any basis".

Watch the Newsnight interview in full on Wednesday at 2230 BST on BBC Two and then afterwards on the BBC iPlayer and Newsnight website.