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Pakistan in Deep Turmoil

Inter Press Service

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani faces the nation Monday, amid opposition demands for the resignation of the country’s top political and military leaders in the wake of the secret U.S. operation that killed Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil.

Gilani will address the nation through parliament, a week after U.S. forces snuck into Abbottabad in northeast Pakistan, killed bin Laden and took his body without the knowledge of Pakistani leaders.

Gilani said in France Sunday that the U.S. forces should not have violated Pakistn’s sovereignty.

A full debate on the bin Laden fiasco would be conducted in parliament, according to an official statement issued immediately after Gilani met with President Asif Ali Zardari and Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani.

The three met for the second time since the bin Laden fiasco on May 7, and said in an official statement afterwards that they "comprehensively reviewed" the situation in the "perspective of Pakistan’s national security and foreign policy."

The prime minister returned from a three-day official visit to France on Saturday morning and also held consultations with defence minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar and the minister of state for foreign affairs, Hina Rabbani Khar.

The meetings took place in the face of international pressure for Pakistan to explain how bin Laden lived undetected near the country’s premier military academy for five years. There is also pressure from within the country for heads to roll, the Dawn newspaper said.

Opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told IPS that they are demanding the resignations of the president, the prime minister and the military leadership.

"We are not going to spare the government on this issue which relates to the country’s sovereignty," Khan told media people outside the National Assembly on Saturday. "The government must come out of hibernation and speak clearly and loudly to give an end to the blame-game between the Pakistan and the U.S."

At a news conference in Lahore, former foreign minister and senior leader of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party Shah Mahmood Qureshi said action should also be taken against the heads of the Army and the main spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), if an official inquiry finds them responsible.

For the past week, the Pakistani government has provided no reply to the barrage of accusations from the U.S. that Pakistan’s ISI forces may have turned a blind eye to bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad, and even actively assisted him.

On May 4, the ISI issued a statement saying it was embarrassed by the presence of Osama in Abbottabad and admitted its incapability to have traced him. However, it said that Pakistan’s role in the war against terror had been positive, and that several top leaders had been arrested and handed over to the U.S.

Pakistani leaders also pointed out that more than 3,000 soldiers have died fighting insurgents since 9/11, and that tens of thousands more civilians have died in terrorist attacks.

After Israel, Pakistan has been a main recipient of U.S. aid. Now U.S. Congressmen are moving enact a law that would choke off billions of dollars.

According to the Washington Post, a safe house set up by the Central Intelligence Agency in Abbottabad was a base of operations for intelligence gathering that used Pakistani informants and other sources to compile a "pattern of life" portrait of the occupants.

Officials told The Washington Post that it was from this safehouse that spies monitored the daily activities at the compound where bin Laden was found.

Earlier in April, according to WikiLeaks, the United States had listed Pakistan’s ISI as "terrorist", and ranked it alongside groups such as Al-Qaeda and Taliban. Late last year, news reports also quoted the U.S. as saying that ISI had a long association with Al-Qaeda and Taliban, and that ISI officials even attended Taliban meetings.

On Apr. 25, the Guardian newspaper quoted secret files it had obtain in which "U.S. authorities describe the main Pakistani intelligence service as a terrorist organisation."

"Recommendations to interrogators at Guantanamo Bay rank the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate alongside Al-Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah in Lebanon as threats. Being linked to any of these groups is an indication of terrorist or insurgent activity, the documents say," according to The Guardian.

In the week since the May 2 operation in Abbottabad, the Pakistani government has been unable to come up with a coherent response to the accusations.

On May 3, a meeting between Zardari, Gilani and Kayani failed to draw up a response to the Abbottabad operation. On May 7, the country’s top civilian and military leadership met to hammer out a strategy to cope with the situation.

An official statement on Saturday emphasised that "the sole criterion for formulating our stance is safeguarding of Pakistan’s supreme national interest by all means, by all state institutions, in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Pakistan, who above all value their dignity and honour."

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