Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during the National Assembly session in Islamabad (AFP)
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan called the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks in the US, Osama bin Laden, a “shaheed (martyr)” on Thursday, saying that his killing on Pakistani soil by US Navy Seals in 2011 had caused a lot of embarrassment to the country.
Speaking in the National Assembly about his government’s foreign policy, Khan said Pakistan had to face immense “humiliation” in the past, despite supporting Washington in the war on terror, and was then blamed for the US’s failures in Afghanistan.
Recalling the killing of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, in the Pakistan garrison town of Abbottabad in the northwest, Khan said: “The Americans came to Abbottabad and killed, martyred Osama bin Laden. What happened after that? The entire world cursed at us and spoke ill of us.”
“So our ally (US) comes to our own country to kill someone and doesn’t inform us? And 70,000 Pakistanis have died in their war. Look at the humiliation that caused to all the Pakistanis who were abroad,” the PM said on the floor of the House.
Khan also recalled US drone attacks inside Pakistan, saying the Pakistani government at the time had said it had opposed them. “When the former US military chief, Admiral Mike Mullen, was asked at a US Senate hearing why drone attacks were being carried out despite Pakistan’s objection, Mullen replied that they were carried out with the permission of the Pakistani government,” Khan said, adding that Pakistan did not know whether it was an ally or a foe of the US in the war on terror. “Such incidents caused huge embarrassment to overseas Pakistanis,” he said.
Following his speech, opposition leaders lambasted the PM over his remarks referring to Bin Laden as a “martyr”.
“Imran Khan called Osama bin Laden ‘shaheed’. Bin Laden brought terrorism to our lands, he was a terrorist, and the PM calls him ‘shaheed’,” said Khwaja Muhammad Asif, former foreign minister and senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader.
Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar of the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) called the PM a “national security threat”.
“By labelling Osama bin Laden a martyr, Imran Khan has become a national security threat. If he is a martyr, then what is the status of those civilians and members of our armed forces who embraced martyrdom in the attacks by Al Qaeda?” he asked.
Khokhar also questioned the lesson that Khan was trying to teach the younger generation. “Today Imran Khan has proven himself in parliament to be ‘Taliban Khan’. The Imran Khan-Taliban nexus was evident from the meetings between the two,” the senator said, adding that the PM was the same person who had called for the Taliban to open offices in Pakistan.