ISLAMABAD - Both the government and military have kept mum over the defence minister’s statement, ‘crediting’ the Pakistan Army and government for tracing out Osama bin Laden, a year after his killing in Abbottabad.

On the face of it, the statement perfectly goes Pakistan’s way but it could potentially bring in annoying embarrassment for the army in particular, if deciphered in the background context.

Right from the onset, Pakistan’s military has vehemently detached itself from the Osama bin Laden episode claiming complete ignorance over what happened on May 2, 2011 and before that. This entailed repeated denials and statements from military and its premier intelligence agency’s top brass. Even the vibes leaked to journalists were generally unanimous in establishing army’s ‘innocence’ or ignorance to the Al-Qaeda chief’s presence in Pakistan that ended up in the OBL operation.

Having going through all the criticism coming from the domestic as well as international quarters following the direct allegations and accusations of intelligence failure and professional incompetence, the disclosures from Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar appear to be making another addition to this intriguing episode but only when the dust had settled.  This would probably leave the international community, the neutral observers and general public in a quandary as to what to believe-Pakistan’s vehement denials or newly-found credit claims.

Sources in a military-run spy agency say the army would give its ‘input’ on the subject once the OBL Commission report is out while the defence minister claims his new stance on the saga is to be deemed as government and military’s policy line and not his personal views.

During a detailed telephonic conversation with The Nation on Wednesday, as printed yesterday (Thursday), this journalist had asked Mukhtar if he had consulted the prime minister and military before speaking on the issue during the interview with BBC Urdu, while his response was that the said interview projected the government-military line on the subject. “Not to be taken as my personal views,” he had clarified.

This implies that the military and the government, that have not officially confirmed or denied Mukhtar’s claim, are in agreement to endorse them believably as per a revived ‘policy’ on OBL.

Whether the commission’s report completely bails out military for its ignorance on Osama’s presence in Abbottabad and the consequential US Navy SEALs operation or the report ‘crediting’ the Pakistan Army and government for having a hand in hunting down the world’s most wanted militant - either scenario would not render any good to military that has already received due criticism reciprocated by an apology over intelligence lapse on bin Laden’s stay in Abbottabad. And claiming praise at this point would belie the army’s previous version and seriously undermine Pakistan’s military establishment’s credibility.

In addition, Ahmed Mukhtar’s version, if authenticated, would question the legality of the sacking of two lady health workers (LHWs) and their in-charge Dr Shakil Afridi for allegedly working for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to trace out OBL.

If Pakistani security agencies and CIA were working together and Pakistan gave the US the leads to catch Osama, as claimed by Mukhtar, then the CIA working with Pakistani government employees possibly indicates that the authorities concerned were either in the loop or in knowledge of these covert activities.

On May 4, 2011, The Nation had published the story, ‘11 suspects arrested near Osama hideout’, which revealed that two LHWs, who had administered polio vaccination to OBL’s children, were also rounded up by the security agencies, some senior intelligence officials had contacted this newspaper to state that the LHWs had administered the polio drops ‘unknowingly’ and they would be released soon. Both the LHWs, Shaheena and Amina, were released later in May and arrested again some months later after the authorities accused them of working for the CIA.

This newspaper’s another story ‘American troops kill Osama’ published on May 3 last year had reported that the army had prior knowledge of OBL operation and it provided backhand support during the US Navy SEALs, was then denied by the military and the government.