LAHORE – Although the former ISI chief, Lt Gen (r) Ziauddin Butt, has disowned the remarks attributed to him in an interview, which otherwise are sure to trigger a debate world over once again, but the man, reportedly accused of providing the bungalow to Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, is going to sue him over his reported remarks.

Interestingly, former Intelligence Bureau (IB) DG Ijaz Shah is filing a defamation suit against the ex-ISI Chief citing ‘harassment and injury’. “I am filing a lawsuit for damages amounting to Rs 500 million against him (Ziauddin Butt) and demanding he should furnish proof to substantiate his charges against me,” said Ijaz Shah, the former head of the country’s top civilian spy agency. Ijaz declined to comment further on the issue stating that the matter is sub judice.

Talking to TheNation on Wednesday, Ziauddin Butt said he never blamed former president Musharraf or ex-IB head Ijaz Shah for providing safe haven to Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.

He also said he had been misquoted in the Newsweek magazine by Bruce Riedel, who, according to Butt, had conducted his online interview around one and half month ago.

Bruce Riedel quoted Lt Gen (r) Butt as saying the ex-president “General Musharraf knew that Osama bin Laden was in Abbottabad and his IB chief Ijaz Shah had hired the bungalow for the fugitive al Qaeda leader.” “Actually, I had stated that Musharraf and Ijaz Shah (being head of the intelligence network) should have known (where OBL was hiding).”

“I had stated they (Musharraf and Ijaz) should have the knowledge but Bruce Riedel quoted me as if I had stated that it was in their knowledge,” insisted Ziauddin Butt.

He further said Bruce Riedel interviewed him when the Abbottabad commission was being set up to investigate how Osama lived in Pakistan undetected for years until his killing by US special forces on May 2, 2011.

“When the matter is sub judice and is under investigation, how I can comment on it,” the former military added.

When asked why Riedel misquoted him, he replied, “To me personally, they (Westerns) wanted to put more pressure on Musharraf.”

Butt laughed and said, “Musharraf deserve anything like this (even in the West).”

When asked will he sue the magazine or the writer for misquoting him, “I will see it,” he replied.

He further said, “It is the hobby of the Western media to distort the facts for their own purposes.”

Riedel, however, also noted that Butt had “a motive to speak harshly about Musharraf.”

Several top-ranking former and current officers in the security forces played down the reported remarks by the ex-chief of the ISI, while some of them termed it as ‘garbage and rubbish’.

“He (Ziauddin) was never accepted as the COAS by the army. He is the most controversial character and his position of the COAS lasted for only a few hours when he was arrested along with the PM,” a high-ranking retired army officer said and requested not to be named.

Under Musharraf’s rule, Ziauddin and his family had literally been turned into outcasts. “So, naturally Ziauddin holds a grudge against Gen (r) Musharraf. I doubt that he had access to any concrete information during that time,” said a retired army officer, who like others interviewed for this story, preferred not to be named.

On one hand, he said, the ex-ISI head blamed a civilian intelligence agency of harbouring bin laden with full knowledge of the army and the president, while, on the other, he quoted ISI and CIA together launching an operation on May 1 to track and kill OBL.

The other obvious contradiction is Butt was himself ISI chief before he was appointed as the COAS for 6 hours by Nawaz Sharif.

“If we believe the contents of this laughable piece and an excuse for an article then we should be blaming the IB not the ISI for all the ills in the world,” a security expert commented.

Butt was the head of the ISI under former premier Nawaz Sharif from 1997 to 1999. Sharif promoted Lt General Ziauddin Butt to slot of the COAS after forcibly retiring General Pervez Musharraf on October 12, 1999, but the army’s top brass revolted against the decision and arrested both Nawaz and Butt.

“We don’t know who was helping hide bin Laden but we need to track them down. If Mush, as many call him in Pakistan, knew, then he should be questioned by the authorities the next time he sets foot in America.”

“If we can find who hid bin Laden, we will probably know who is hiding his successor, Ayman Zawahiri, and the rest of the al Qaeda gang,” Bruce Riedel suggested in his article.