June Issue 2015
Interview: Talat Hussain
Do you think Seymour Hersh is correct in saying Pakistan knew Osama bin Laden was in the country?
The story he has done is very low on authentic sources. He quotes sources which are unnamed, and retired people who had only initial knowledge of initial intelligence, and then he keeps quoting them ad nauseam. His sourcing is inherently suspect. Then he also quotes someone like Asad Durrani, who retired in the early 1990s. Since then the institutions in the country have changed a lot. Durrani is not totally clued in. The other issue is related to the main thrust of the story, which is that Pakistan was hiding Osama bin Laden, for all this time. When you hide someone like Osama bin Laden, obviously you want to keep him away from the world’s gaze. So if the Pakistani establishment was hiding the world’s most wanted man, why would the same Pakistani establishment assist the US in conducting the raid? Either we were hiding him or helping the US capture him. We couldn’t have been doing both.
Who might the walk-in at the US embassy mentioned by Seymour Hersh have been?
He quotes somebody he says is a walk-in at the embassy, who tells the US about Osama bin Laden. I have some sense who this person is, but I can only tell you at this point in time that this person was at that time long retired from the intelligence services. He was perhaps with some private security agency. He was also probably hired by the CIA to do this kind of work. I doubt whether this guy was a genuine representative of the intelligence community.
How did Osama’s presence in the country go undetected for so long?
You can go undetected for a long time anywhere in the world, like those who planned 9/11. I’m not defending the complete incompetence and criminal neglect of the state of Pakistan, but based on my experience I can tell you that if there is a conspiracy, it is a conspiracy of incompetence. We have never had any accountability. We are forever groping in the dark and entertaining the possibility of a conspiracy. You had the same establishment caught unawares when the Mehran base was attacked. You had the same establishment not knowing when Kamra was attacked. You had the same establishment not knowing when APS was attacked. You’ve had the same establishment not knowing so many things, so them not knowing where OBL was really doesn’t surprise me. The intelligence agencies left it to the US to find clues about Osama and the US decided for a while not to share any information with us.
Is it the same incompetence which explains our failure to stop the US from breaching our airspace?
Much as I want to believe our defences are impregnable, [but consider that] the world’s superpower, with all the technology at its disposal, [has also had intelligence failures]. I’m not saying we couldn’t have done better. We can always do better. If you look at the timeframe of the raid, they entered Pakistan and travelled to Abbottabad in 40 minutes. They were done with the operation in about 30 minutes. If they had not blown up the crashed chopper, we would not even have known at that time what had happened. It was already too late for us to scramble their jets. And the US could do it again; they have the capacity.
Is there any aspect of the official version of the OBL raid that you don’t believe?
Most of us have raised the point about there being too many unanswered questions. I still say it is incompetence. I base my answer upon the track record of the establishment. At the same time, I don’t find [even their side of it] convincing. There was no internal inquiry. There are one thousand questions, and the biggest problem is there is no official version. There were only two press releases put out, and that is it.
This interview was originally published in Newsline’s June 2015 issue.
Nadir Hassan is a Pakistan-based journalist and assistant editor at Newsline.