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Pakistan may extradite bin Laden's wives to US

May 10, 2011

Pakistan's likely decision to allow US officials to interrogate three of Osama bin Laden's wives, who are currently detained, might help somewhat to stabilize the strained relations between the two countries.

PM Gilani's address to parliament failed to answer many questions
PM Gilani's address to parliament failed to answer many questionsImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Pakistani officials have hinted that they might extradite bin Laden's captured wives and children to the US. Three of bin Laden's wives - one who is of Yemeni origin and two from Saudi Arabia - were living with him in a mansion in Abbottabad when the al Qaeda terrorist was shot dead by US forces at the beginning of May. They have been detained by the Pakistani authorities ever since and are currently under interrogation.

US President Barack Obama has already said in an interview that US officials will demand access to the women as they could be key to the ongoing investigation that is expected to reveal many details about bin Laden's stay in Pakistan.

So far, there has been no official confirmation that Pakistan will hand over bin Laden's wives to the US.

'A difficult assignment'

Pakistan has come under immense pressure from the US government to provide an explanation for how the al Qaeda leader came to be living in the  garrison city of Abbottabad. There is speculation that this could not have happened without the support of the country's powerful intelligence services.

Osama bin Laden was shot dead by US Special Forces
Osama bin Laden was shot dead by US Special ForcesImage: AP

Now observers are asking whether the extradition of the three women to the US will be enough to ease relations between Islamabad and Washington.

Ghazi Salahuddin, a veteran Pakistani journalist, is of the opinion that Islamabad has a lot of explaining to do, not only to the US but also to the Pakistani people.

"It is a very difficult assignment for the Pakistani government and the army. What they need to do is to reinvent Pakistan's foreign policy and reconsider the strategy to deal with militancy in the country. That would be the most beneficial outcome possible from this crisis," Salahuddin told Deutsche Welle.

Puzzling questions

However, others in Pakistan are of the view that Prime Minster Yusuf Reza Gilani's speech to parliament on Monday was merely a continuation of the same policy of denial and secrecy about important national issues.

For many, as well as for the West, the parliamentary address fell short of providing a satisfactory answer to several puzzling questions.

As could be expected perhaps, the premier defended the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and said that it had not protected the world's most-wanted terrorist.

Pakistani analyst Imtiaz Gul, in an interview with Deutsche Welle, said that there had been nothing new in the PM's speech.

"People are still trying to figure out what exactly the prime minister meant. They expected a clearer policy statement but what they heard was the premier's attempt to gloss over the bitter reality that Pakistan's airspace was violated and that he was kept in the dark," said Gul.

Possible backlash from the Islamists

The Islamist organizations in Pakistan have already threatened to avenge bin Laden's death. How would they react to Pakistan's possible extradition of bin Laden's wives?

Religious parties in Pakistan have protested against the US raid that killed bin Laden in Abbottabad
Religious parties in Pakistan have protested against the US raid that killed bin Laden in AbbottabadImage: picture-alliance/dpa

At the moment Islamabad is trying to play safe. The reputation of the civilian government as well as that of the military has been badly affected. On the one hand, the religious parties are staging protests, while on the other the nationalists are demanding an explanation for how the US managed to operate inside Pakistani territory without Pakistani officials knowing about it.

The main opposition party, PML (N), of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, has demanded that Prime Minister Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari step down.

If Islamabad decides to give further leverage to the US on the bin Laden issue, it could well create more problems for the already very fragile civilian government.

Author: Shamil Shams
Editor: Anne Thomas

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