WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Pakistan’s exiled former President Pervez Musharraf said on Thursday that “absolute negligence and not complicity” was behind his country’s Osama bin Laden fiasco and Washington and Islamabad must put that episode behind them and rebuild trust.
“We must convince the world and the United States that the issue of Osama bin Laden was not complicity; it was negligence of a very monumental order,” he said in a speech in Washington.
U.S. special forces’ killing of the al Qaeda leader in Pakistan on May 2 soured relations between the two countries over U.S. suspicion its ally knew he was living in a town not far from the Pakistani capital for about five years.
“Two years of that five years was during my time. I confidently and surely say that there was not complicity because I am very sure of one thing: that I didn’t know, whether one believes it or not,” said Musharraf.
The 67-year-old former general ruled the nuclear-armed Islamic country from 1999-2008 and allied Pakistan with the United States after the Sept. 11 attacks, forging close ties with then-President George W. Bush.
Dispelling suspicions over bin Laden would be “the starting point of reestablishing some kind of trust and confidence in each other,” he said.
Musharraf, who lives in London but plans return to Pakistan next year and participate in 2013 elections, outlined steps Islamabad and Washington needed to take to restore trust in relations he said were “at their lowest in a decade”.
In addition to dispelling the bin Laden suspicions, Pakistan had to address U.S. anxiety that it is not actively pursuing the Haqqani group and other extremists living along its border with Afghanistan, he said.
“The United States must show consideration to our sensitivities” about sovereignty, nuclear weapons and India, including the divided and disputed territory of Kashmir, said Musharraf.
Pakistanis resented U.S. drone attacks on militant targets that often killed innocent civilians, he said.
The country also sought from Washington “a more balanced treatment of Pakistan and India and understanding that Pakistan’s nuclear capability is because of an existential threat,” said Musharraf.
Reporting by Paul Eckert; Editing by Cynthia Osterman