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Claims that ‘Nawaz took money from Bin Laden’ resurface

Updated February 29, 2016

ISLAMABAD: A new book has once again made the claim that Nawaz Sharif received money from Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

The book, Khalid Khawaja: Shaheed-i-Aman, is authored by Shamama Khalid, the wife of former ISI operative Khalid Khawaja.

“Chief of PML-N Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif received funding from Osama Bin Laden, founder of Al-Qaeda, to contest elections against Benazir Bhutto’s led Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) after the end of Zia regime,” the book states.

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The book claims that Mr Sharif’s pledge of introducing an Islamic system attracted Khawaja as well as Bin Laden. But even though the Al Qaeda head honcho funded Nawaz Sharif heavily, the latter backtracked from all his promises after coming into power.

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The book also carries a note from former ISI director general, retired Lt-Gen Hamid Gul, which also claims that Khawaja was very close to Nawaz Sharif for some time. The book claims that Abdullah Azzam introduced Khawaja to Bin Laden.

Azzam, who is also known as the ‘father of global jihad’, was a Palestinian Sunni. Azzam raised funds and recruited jihadis from the Arab world, known as Afghan Arabs. A mentor of Bin Laden, he is said to have persuaded him to come to Afghanistan.

Khawaja’s peace mission and death

The book claims that Khawaja was killed by a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban while he was on a peace mission in the restive tribal areas.

Khalid Khawaja went to North Waziristan along with retired Col Imam and British journalist Asad Qureshi. Khawaja and Col Imam were killed by terrorists while Qureshi was released in exchange for a ransom.

Khawaja and the other two went missing on March 26, 2010, reportedly while on a trip to North Waziristan to make a documentary; this is what was claimed in media reports. A few weeks later, he was found murdered.

The Asian Tigers group, that claimed responsibility for the crime, had never been heard of before.

According to the book, Khawaja went to Waziristan to highlight the “large scale destruction” caused by drone attacks in the tribal belt.

The book claimed that Khawaja had visited North Wazirstan prior to March 2010 and had met TTP leaders Waliur Rehman Mehsud, Hakimullah Mehsud, and Sher Khan, a commander from the Haqqani Network.

It says that when Khawaja contacted his Taliban contacts and asked if he could bring along the journalist Asad Qureshi, he was not given permission to do so. In the meantime, Usman Punjabi, an activist of the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and a leader of the Asian Tigers group, offered him their support.

According to the book, this group, which comprised roughly 40 men, later took Khawaja and the other two hostage. Khawaja and Col Imam ended up being executed at their hands.

The author explained that the ‘good’ Taliban were sympathetic to Khawaja and Col Imam, but had gone into hiding due to the drone strikes and could not be reached to negotiate the release of the hostages.

The book alleged that the Indian intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) were behind the killing of Khawaja and Col Imam.

The book mentioned that a letter, left with Khawaja’s body, claimed that he had been killed for his role in the Lal Masjid attack.

Before killing the former ISI agent, the Asian Tigers released video footage showing Khawaja confessing to playing a negative role in the negotiations that took place between the district administration and the Lal Masjid clerics.

This footage showed Khawaja making a startling statement — apparently under duress — that he was a double agent for ISI and CIA and had convinced Maulana Abdul Aziz, the chief cleric of Lal Masjid, to try and escape the besieged mosque in a burqa.

Interestingly enough, a similar claim was made during the proceedings of the one-man commission probe into Lal Masjid.

Former commissioner Khalid Pervez told Justice Shehzado Sheikh – who headed the commission – that the mosque’s clerics had reached a settlement with the government and the former were about to hand over the keys of the Children Library – the library was next to the mosque that had been occupied by seminary students – when Khalid Khawaja scuttled the agreement.

The book also included a one page note from Lal Masjid cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz, admiring Khawaja’s services to human rights, especially in highlighting the issue of missing persons.

The cleric also notes that Khawaja’s confession was extracted under extreme duress.

Published in Dawn, February 29th, 2016