ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani prime minister, who is currently in the United Kingdom on an official five-day visit, has denied the presence of Ayman al-Zawahiri on Pakistani soil.
In interviews to British news outlets on Saturday, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said the al Qaeda leader is not in Pakistan and that the US has failed to provide any “actionable information” to suggest otherwise.
“Why should I think he (Zawahiri) is in Pakistan?” Gilani asked the Daily Telegraph. “You (US) have claimed that somebody has said that he is in Pakistan… if there is any information, please share it with us.”
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday had said the US believed Zawahiri was present somewhere in Pakistan.
“There have been lots of ups and downs in our relationship,” PM Gilani said in another interview later on Saturday. “We know the importance of the United States. We really want to improve our relations. We are in the middle of discussions and I am sure that better things will come out.”
Gilani stressed that he wanted to improve relations with the US following the killing of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last year.
Moreover, the premier described the relationship between the US and Pakistani intelligence agencies as “good”.
“All high-value targets of al Qaeda have been achieved with the support and help of the ISI,” he said. “Therefore, when we are working together so closely, I think there should be no hesitation in sharing information with Pakistan.”
On Monday, Clinton, who was on a visit to India, had also criticised Pakistan for not doing enough against Lashkar-i-Taiba leader Hafiz Saeed – the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
The prime minister said in his Saturday’s interview that there was insufficient evidence to warrant Saeed’s arrest. “If you arrest him, that means he will be released by the courts. For the courts you need more evidence,” he added.
The Pakistani premier is in London to review the one-year progress of the Pak-UK Strategic Dialogue process.