New Delhi: Pakistan, regarded as a strategic ally of the US in its fight against terrorism, has found itself being slammed separately by two leading presidential hopefuls—Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump—for its support to terrorism.
While Clinton attacked Pakistan saying that senior Pakistani leaders knew of Al Qaeda ideologue Obama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad, Trump said he would lean on Pakistan to release a doctor who had secured DNA evidence to prove bin Laden was indeed being sheltered in the Abbottabad safe house.
The accusations come close to the five-year anniversary of bin Laden being killed by US special forces on the night of 1-2 May in 2011.
“It was just too much of a coincidence that that house, that unusual-looking house would be built in that community near the military academy, surrounded by retired military professionals, even though, we couldn’t prove it,’’ Clinton, who was secretary of state when the raid took place, said in a CNN interview on the fifth anniversary of bin Laden’s death.
Her comment followed Trump suggesting that he would lean on Pakistan to ensure the release of Shakil Afridi—the doctor who helped the US secure DNA evidence which proved the presence of bin Laden in the Abbottabad safe house.
“I think I would get him out in two minutes. I would tell them (Pakistan) let him out and I’m sure they would let him out. Because we give a lot of aid to Pakistan," Trump said last week.
Trump’s words have riled Pakistan with the country’s interior minister Chaudury Nisar Ali Khan stating that Pakistan was not a “colony" of the US and would decide for itself the fate of Afridi, according to a report in The Guardian newspaper.
“Contrary to Mr Trump’s misconception, Pakistan is not a colony of America. Shakil Afridi is a Pakistani citizen and nobody else has the right to dictate to us about his future,’’ Nisar said, calling on Trump to “treat sovereign states with respect’’.
“The peanuts the US has given us in return should not be used to threaten or browbeat us into following Trump’s misguided vision of foreign policy. Trump’s statement shows not only his insensitivity but also his ignorance about Pakistan," Nisar added.
The US-Pakistan relationship has seesawed between close cooperation and intense acrimony in the years the two have been partners in the war against terrorism.
According to analysts, the US is dependent on Pakistan to deliver the militant Taliban to the negotiating table to ensure peace in Afghanistan. Previously, with its troops in Afghanistan, the US was also dependent on Pakistan for the movement of military and other convoys to Afghanistan given that the route through Pakistan was the shortest and hence most economical.
But the two sides have also had bitter exchanges over the support that Pakistan extends to terrorist groups. The shelter given to bin Laden was a sore point.
In her book, Hard Choices, Clinton has noted that she and some of her colleagues “thought we could not trust Pakistan".
She adds: “I also knew elements in the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, maintained ties to the Taliban, Al Qaeda and other extremists."
She notes that by 2011 the US had provided over $25 billion in military and economic aid to Pakistan since 9/11 to fight the Al Qaeda.
Trump, on his part, has said that he sees India as the real check vis-a-vis Pakistan.
Pakistan is “a serious problem" because they have nuclear weapons that work and “a lot of them", he told a radio programme last year.
“India is the check to Pakistan... You have to get India involved... They have their own nukes and have a very powerful army. They seem to be the real check... I think we have to deal very closely with India to deal with it (Pakistan)," said Trump, often criticised and ridiculed by his opponents for his views on foreign policy.