ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistani defence minister Ahmed Mukhtar has categorically denied claiming in an interview with Indian TV channel CNN-IBN that Pakistan had knowledge of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's presence in the country.
Talking to Geo News via telephone, Mukhtar termed the clips of his interview being shown on Indian media as "utter nonsense" and "totally misquoted". His statements had been taken out of context, said Mukhtar, who served as the defence minister in ex-prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's cabinet.
CNN-IBN on Tuesday claimed to have exposed what it called 'Pakistan's link with Osama' by repeatedly showing short clips of an interview its anchor Zakka Jacob conducted of Pakistani ex-defence minister Ahmed Mukhtar.
In those clips, Mukhtar is shown to be agreeing to the idea that Pakistan's top civilian and military leadership may have known about Osama's presence in Pakistan.
Following the broadcast of the interview, CNN-IBN on its official Twitter page claimed to have cause a "global impact" with the interview that it said "revealed the truth".
On its website, CNN-IBN asserted that the former defence minister had admitted that Pakistani leadership knew of Osama's presence when he answered in the affirmative (with a "yeah") to the following question asked by the anchor: "So President Zardari, you are saying knew about it, General Kayani, the then Army Chief had information about it and there were people both in the civilian and military chain of command who had prior information about Osama?"
After the interview was aired, Mukhtar rejected the statements as portrayed by CNN-IBN.
"Regarding the interview being shown on CNN-IBN, and having been the defence minister, I categorically deny and consider these statements utter nonsense and totally misquoted," Mukhtar told Geo News.
Mukhtar added that if Pakistan knew about Osama residing in Pakistan, it would have taken action against him.
"The statements have been taken out of context...for example, if we knew about Osama Bin Laden, then we would have taken action ourselves much earlier," he said.
Pakistan has repeatedly denied claims and allegations that it had any knowledge of Osama's presence in the country at the highest levels of civil-military leadership.
In the past, such claims were turned down by the Pakistan Foreign Office (FO), the army itself and Pakistani diplomats.
On March 20, 2014, a text message sent out by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) to correspondents on behalf of the army read: “Nobody in Pakistan knew about the presence of Osama bin Laden”.
Pakistani diplomats in Washington had also rejected the claim that the ISI kept and protected Osama bin Laden at his compound in Abbottabad, saying such claims contradicted the official US assessment of the situation.
“Since the OBL episode, senior US officials and leaders have on a number of occasions stated on record that they have seen no intelligence linking the government of Pakistan and any of its agencies with Osama’s presence in Abbottabad,” a spokesperson for the Pakistan Embassy in Washington had said at the time.