Pakistani media on Tuesday said the killing of al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in a U.S. commando raid would heap embarrassment on authorities hard pressed to explain how he had been able to live in the country undetected for years.
Some commentators suggested Washington would take action to show its displeasure with the authorities.
Bin Laden was shot dead early on Monday morning by U.S. special forces dropped by helicopter into the compound where he had lived since 2005. He had long thought to be hiding in Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt in the northwest near the border with Afghanistan.
President Asif Ali Zardari, writing on Monday in the Washington Post, said his security forces were left out of Sunday’s operation. But bin Laden’s presence a few km (miles) from a major military facility could undermine the reputation of Pakistan’s military and intelligence.
“The failure of Pakistan to detect the presence of the world’s most wanted man here is shocking,” The News said in an editorial.
“How he was able to hide there without any action on our part is going to be a hard sell to the Americans,” echoed the Daily Times.
Dawn said the operation “raises a slew of questions about the level of cooperation with Pakistani intelligence and the military.
“Were they taken into confidence? If so, at what point? Were they consulted or simply informed? Did they play any role in the operation?”
Television networks repeatedly showed file footage of statements by Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and other government leaders denying bin Laden was in the country.
Washington has in the past accused Pakistan of lacking the resolve to root out militants and of maintaining ties to fighters targeting U.S. troops in neighboring Afghanistan.
In October 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced dismay that bin Laden and other prominent militants had not yet been caught and suggested Pakistani complicity.
Within hours of the operation that killed bin Laden, U.S. lawmakers were asking how he had been able to live in a populated area of Pakistan without anyone in authority knowing about it, possibly for years. Some said it was time to review the billions in aid the United States provides Pakistan.
In the Washington Post, Zardari said Pakistan was as much a victim of al Qaeda militants as any country and denied any notion that authorities had failed to act.
But newspapers said the raid would generate more questions on Pakistan’s role as an ally in combating terrorism.
“Pakistan has found itself in quite the embarrassing situation. … Whilst we have been allies of the U.S., we have been very trying partners, picking and choosing the militants we wanted to root out and the ones we wanted to protect,” the Daily Times said.
“It is hoped we will not be on the receiving end of a negative fallout with the Americans, who are in this war for (the) long haul.”