Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is in the news again, for his alleged ties with al Qaeda head Osama bin Laden. A new book authored by Shamama Khalid, the wife of former ISI operative Khalid Khawaja, claims that Sharif was hand in gloves with the world’s deadliest terrorist Osama. But the news is not likely to stir the PM; after all, he has handled many such “allegations” in the past without batting an eyelid.
Khalid Khawaja, the man himself, had declared in 2009 about Nawaz Sharif’s links with Osama bin Laden. It did raise eyebrows, but Sharif was far beyond reproach in his land. The power dynamics in Pakistan are quite dissimilar to India. There, a deadly orgy takes place among terrorism, politics and defence, and Pakistanis are hardly shaken by this kind of alliance; they have been rattled by terrorism for too long now.
Khawaja was a pro-Islamist. In 1988, he was thrown out of the ISI for criticizing then-president Zia-ul-Haq for failing to do enough to “Islamicise” Pakistan. The ex-spy was kidnapped on March 26, 2010 along with another ISI official Colonel Ameer Sultan and journalist Asad Quraishi. Khawaja was found dead, his body riddled with bullets on April 30, with a note accusing him of spying for the United States’ CIA.
I haven’t read Shamama’s new book Khalid Khawaja: Shaheed-i-Aman. But what the slain ex-ISI agent’s wife has stated about Sharif is just but an assertion of the fact that has been in the news domain for some years now.
On September 7, 2009, Khalid Khwaja, told The Times of India that Osama and Sharif met at least five times. The al Qaeda head introduced the Pakistani leader to the Saudi royal family. A can of worms was opened by Khwaja’s explosive statements, when he claimed that during his tenure as PM in the 90s, Sharif asked Osama to help Pakistani people get jobs in Saudi Arabia. The PM also wanted the al Qaeda head to invest in development projects in Pakistan.
The links between Osama and Nawaz Sharif were also highlighted by British author and journalist Simon Reeves in his book The New Jackals: Ramzi Yousaf, Osama bin Laden and the future of terrorism. Simon claimed that in 1988, Osama not only sponsored the election campaign Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), of which Sharif was the leader, but paid him big pots of money to ensure protection of al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan.
A year back, among other documents found in Osama’s Abbottabad residence, a letter established the ties between Sharif and the al Qaeda chief. In a letter written on July 2010, Shahbaz Sharif, the brother of Nawaz Sharif, wanted to strike a deal with the Pakistani Taliban, whose leadership was close to Laden. Shahbaz was then the chief minister of Punjab (in Pakistan), and was “ready to re-establish normal relations as long as the Pakistani Taliban does not conduct operations in Punjab,” the letter said.
Attacks elsewhere in Pakistan were acceptable under the terms of the proposal. The letter revealed how the al Qaeda threatened with terror attacks as a negotiating tactic in its talks with the Pakistani military.
Shamama Khalid might have picked the Sharif topic from the various news reports just to raise a stink. But her allegation that the Indian RAW and the American CIA were behind the killing of her spouse is what that intrigues us.