Pakistani President Denies Sheltering Bin Laden

BY Tom LeGro  May 3, 2011 at 9:30 AM EST

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari

As U.S. lawmakers continue to question what Pakistan knew or did not know about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden prior to the al-Qaida terrorist leader’s death on Sunday, Pakistan’s president, for his part, said any claim that his country was sheltering terrorists was not true.

Writing in Tuesday’s Washington Post, President Asif Ali Zardari said:

“Some in the U.S. press have suggested that Pakistan lacked vitality in its pursuit of terrorism, or worse yet that we were disingenuous and actually protected the terrorists we claimed to be pursuing. Such baseless speculation may make exciting cable news, but it doesn’t reflect fact. “

Pakistan has come under intense scrutiny because bin Laden lived and died in a fortified compound built in 2005 and located 60 miles from the capital of Islamabad and a half-mile from the prestigious Kakul Military Academy.

On NBC’s “Today” show Tuesday morning, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said, “[C]learly there was some kind of support network that provided [bin Laden] assistance. Whether or not those were individuals inside the Pakistani government is unknown at this point.”

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In details released late Monday, it was revealed the assault team at the bin Laden compound seized hard drives, DVDs, documents and other materials that could shed a whole new light on the al-Qaida operation and perhaps to another most-wanted man: Ayman al-Zawahri.

The Economist offers this viewpoint from Abbottabad, the town where bin Laden lived:

“Local residents say that police regularly swept the area, roughly once a week, checking residents’ IDs and sometimes looking inside homes. It is hard to believe that this house could have escaped scrutiny for long. Most embarrassing for Pakistan’s most powerful man, General Ashfaq Kayani, the chief of staff, he was across the field from number 25 just last week, boasting at the military academy that Pakistan had broken the back of terrorism. At the time Mr bin Laden was within shouting distance of the general. That looks increasingly difficult to explain.”

Meantime, the Obama administration is still debating the release of videos and photos of the raid at the compound and bin Laden’s body and burial at sea.

We’ll have more updates and analysis here on the Rundown Tuesday on day two after the death of bin Laden. Stay tuned here and to Tuesday’s NewsHour broadcast.