“There should not be any misunderstanding over Pakistan’s defence. The country’s government, armed forces and people will uphold the sovereignty of the country. Pakistan has adequate capacity to ensure its defence,” Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir told reporters in Islamabad. The packed press conference in English by the country’s top diplomat was a mix of belligerence and defensiveness. Observers believe it was meant for the international community.
Condemning the unilateral action inside Pakistan, Bashir called it a covert operation about which his government wasn’t consulted. “There are legal questions in relation to UN Security Council resolutions and UN Declaration on Human Rights. The member states must ensure that measures to combat terrorism apply with all their obligations in international law.”
Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani warned any further US action similar to the raid that killed Osama would lead to review of military and intelligence cooperation with US.
Defending the ISI and the army Bashir said: “ISI had a brilliant record in counter-terrorism. Pakistani security forces are neither incompetent nor negligent about the sacred duty to the nation to protect Pakistan.” He said that Pakistan had arrested 248 members of al-Qaida in 2004 only from Tirah valley in the tribal belt.
In a bid to dispel criticism that Pakistan failed to react swiftly to the US action, he said Pakistani authorities came to know about the operation when one of the American helicopters involved in the raid crashed at bin Laden’s compound. “Pakistan Air Force scrambled F-16 fighter jets as soon as the military got to know. By that time the US helicopters had left and were on their way back to Afghanistan,” he said. The US had used technology to evade Pakistani radars and “nap of the earth” flying techniques, he said.
Tempering his hostility towards Washington, Bashir said it was not true that Pakistan-US relations were at the lowest point.
He said the relationship between US and Pakistan will endure as both the countries shared strategic convergence. “The diplomatic process is gaining momentum and speed. We would like to look at the importance and significance of the US-Pakistan relations,” he said.